For the second consecutive year, Mankato is the highest-ranked Minnesota town on the SmartAsset website's list of best hockey towns in America.

The study ranked 118 cities with men's Division I hockey teams or members of the National Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League or the American Hockey League and used criteria including fan intensity and quality of life measures including median income and unemployment rate of the community.

Mankato ranks seventh; they were sixth last year.

Last year St. Cloud was eighth and Bemidji 10th. This year those Minnesota communities are down a bit - Bemidji is 13th and St. Cloud 17th. St. Paul was 15th and Duluth 22nd.

The study says the Maverick hockey team fills its arena an average of 78 percent capacity each game and fans aren't usually disappointed. Study authors say so far this season the Mavericks of Minnesota State University Mankato have won 60 percent of their games.

Grand Forks, N.D., is No. 1 on the list and has been all three years of the survey by SmartAsset.com.

One of the criteria used to determine whether a community is passionate about hockey is the "Hockey" search traffic.

Defined as the number of Google searches for the term "hockey" as a percentage of searches for the term "food" from 2014-17.  A higher percentage indicates a higher level of hockey interest, according to the study authors.

In Grand Forks the "Hockey" search traffic had a percentage of 105. Mankato's was 74 percent, Bemidji 69 percent, St. Paul 69 percent, St. Cloud 69 percent and Duluth 121 percent.

A study can use whatever criteria they desire, but the it should be named something different in my opinion because it doesn't determine the Best Hockey Town in America, but rather the Best Hockey Town among communities with major league or Division I college hockey.

If you were to measure the Best Hockey Towns in America, period, then Faribault would have to be on the list with Shattuck-St. Mary's School and their incredible hockey program that has produced scores of NHL players over the years.

Faribault Ice Arena - photo by Gordy Kosfeld