Few locations in the United States can rival Boston and its surrounding area for hockey fans’ attention and affections.

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski ranked Boston No. 2 on his list of hockey hotbeds in the U.S. on Tuesday. The Boston Bruins’ popularity, combined with a plethora of college-, high-school- and youth- and amateur-hockey programs puts Eastern and Central Massachusetts behind only Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., on Wyshynski’s list.

“… The Boston region defined by USA Hockey has 178 sheets of ice and had 55,981 total community participants as of 2018-19,” Wyshysnki wrote. “A region that has eight Division I men’s programs — Bentley, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Holy Cross, Merrimack, Northeastern, UMass-Lowell — within that market, with six of them having Division I women’s teams. A state that has produced 205 current Division I men’s and women’s players. A city where the high school and college hockey championship games have more hype locally than what many NHL teams receive in their own markets.

“While there has been some erosion at the youth level, the 2018-19 season saw an increase of 2.9 percent among 8-and-under players, and a whopping 7.6 percent increase for adult players, including a 4.0% increase for women’s players after two years of decline.

“The hockey community in Boston was always thriving, but the trickle down from the big club in town certainly helps. It’s still incredible to think about where the Bruins were 15 years ago, struggling to sell out home games, and where they are today, which is one of the NHL’s most popular teams by any metric. … .”

Wyshynski cites a slight, 2.8 percent decline in total youth participation in the five years ending in 2019 as a reason to name Boston as the No. 5 hotbed “cooling down,” but those numbers didn’t cause Boston to fall far in his overall estimation of the region’s lofty place in the U.S. hockey universe.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images