Personally, I'm excited that the Canes are that high, perplexed that the Panthers aren't higher, and equally perplexed that the 'Cats aren't lower. Oh well.
How the rankings came to be, From the site:
The eight major categories that make up the Ultimate Standings were created based on feedback from fans about what they want most from their favorite teams (click here for a more detailed account of the method to our madness.) The categories:
Bang For The Buck (BNG): Wins during the past three years (regular season plus postseason) per revenues directly from fans, adjusted for league schedules.
Fan Relations (FRL): Openness and consideration toward fans by players, coaches and management.
Ownership (OWN): Honesty and loyalty to core players and local community.
Affordability (AFF): Price of tickets, parking and concessions.
Stadium Experience (STX): Quality of arena and game-day promotions as well as friendliness of environment.
Players (PLA): Effort on the field and likability off it.
Coaching (CCH): Strength of on-field leadership.
Title Track (TTR): Championships already won or expected in the lifetime of current fans.
Based on that critiera, the Canes came in just behind the Angels but ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Red Wings. The Canes came in at No. 17 last year.
Here's ESPN's take on the Canes:
Surprised that the Canes are an ice chip (.01 point) away from topping our list? Fans from this unconventional hockey market aren't. In fact, they embrace their underdog role, although references to Hartford South still rankle ("When was the last time you heard the Avalanche being referred to as the 'Nordique-Avs'?" complained a poster on canescountry.com). What doesn't rankle is the wallet- and fan-friendly Hurricane Experience. After all, what's better than an elite team that loves you back at a bargain-basement price? Not much. Even before this spring's playoff run, which included two Game 7 road wins, the Hurricanes offered an "Ice Your Price" plan that guaranteed a two-year freeze on season-ticket costs. As it was, the Canes' average ticket price of $38.38 was already fifth lowest in the NHL, and only one (the Blues) of the three teams with cheaper ducats made the playoffs. As for the requited love, PR chief Mike Sundheim says the team prides itself on making players accessible to the community. Practices at the RBC Center are open to the public, and weekend workouts draw hundreds of fans. Best of all, players stick around afterward to sign autographs. Even visitors are impressed by the Canes-Caniacs love affair. "They know that they are no longer a bandwagon mob," blogged one Bruins supporter who road-tripped to Canes country during Boston's unhappy conference semis, "and they want everyone to know it." Thanks to the team's showing in our Ultimate Standings, everybody does.
... and the Panthers:
After a rough 2007, fans in Bank of America were itching for a bailout. Sure enough -- a year earlier than the rest of the banking industry's -- their pleas became too big to fail. An intact Jake Delhomme behind center plus a healthy dose of Double Trouble (RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart) helped the 2008 squad improve in wins (+5), rushing yards (+613) and points (+147). Cats management responded by pumping in a two-and-a-half-times-as-large hi-def video display, adding flat-screens in the 100 and 500 levels and installing more JJR's BBQ Shacks to sate fans' jones for succulent pulled pork and Midwest-infused beef brisket. Sure, 63,000 of the 73,504 seats are locked down in PSLs -- so much for spontaneity. But it's hard to complain while downing $3 soda and sub-$6 brew, getting free programs and capturing the NFC's jointly held (with the Giants) top record with the eighth-cheapest stubs. Management has frozen ticket prices for 2009, so Panthers backers can feel safe depositing their hard-earned cash in B of A … for now.
.... and the Bobcats:
When one measly Texans playoff berth is all that separates the Bobcats from becoming the lone remaining franchise across major pro sports without postseason experience, well, it's easy to understand their fans' frustration -- and why only one category improved from last year's Standings. That would be Coaching, which leaped a whopping 67 spots after the team finally got serious by hiring Larry Brown. The HOFer brought some much-needed experience and long-sought-after credibility to the sideline for a team whose two previous regimes compiled a sorry .332 WP. Sure, Brown may not be the most stable choice (someone check -- has he unpacked yet?), but he still gets results: His first season was almost good enough for that elusive playoff berth, as Charlotte finished a mere four games out. But fans haven't forgotten (or forgiven) front office follies like trading for Jason Richardson and -- remember this one? -- drafting Adam Morrison No. 3 overall. At least now the albatross (Richardson) and the mustache (Morrison) are gone. Sprite Family Night packages (four tix + four dogs + four sodas = $65), the league's fourth-cheapest tix ($33.25), cheapest parking ($6), free programs, a 17% average ticket price drop for next season and one of the NBA's least-attended venues (14,526 per game) make things more wallet-friendly. Still, there's no price this team, or its fans, wouldn't pay for a postseason.
And in case you were wondering (I'm sure you were), the last-placed team is ... (drum roll) ... the Los Angeles Clippers. No surprise there.