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Finger Lakes Fans: Which Pro Teams Do Locals Love?

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  • Digital Team 

When it comes to sports in the Finger Lakes area, fans have plenty of options. While there isn’t an urban hub that’s large enough to host one of the professional teams from the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, or up-and-coming MLS, the region is sandwiched between others. That means locals get to choose their loyalty. 

Aside from NCAA teams in Birmingham, Syracuse, and Rochester, nearby cities like Buffalo, New York City, and even Toronto all have pro teams. Though it takes a bit of time and effort to catch a live game in any of these locations, it’s incredibly common for locals to fiercely support teams from one of the cities.

This is true in terms of viewership and attendance, along with backing teams at sportsbooks. Since New York legalized virtual sports betting, it has become a popular activity across the state. Whether wagering on futures or building a roster with a daily fantasy sports brand, fans are more likely to focus on their favorite squad. US sportsbooks also have bonus bet offers to keep fans enthusiastic about predicting the games.

But which are the area’s favorites? Do some fans back teams in alternative cities depending on the league? After all, a city’s proximity doesn’t necessarily mean sports fans will choose to support all of its pro teams. Let’s take a closer look.

NFL: Bills, Jets, & Giants

Determining team loyalty based on geography is a difficult art. And when it comes to the Finger Lakes regions, you will most certainly see Jets and Giants fans—but they’ll be few and far between compared to Bills diehards. One of the last large-scale studies from the region took place back in 2016, at which time there was overwhelming support for the Bills. 

Over the last decade, the Giants have welcomed top players from Syracuse University, which can muddy the waters for local fans. But it doesn’t quite compare to the Bills’ support. In fact, this same poll found that 20% of all upstate New Yorkers listed the Bills as their favorite team—irrespective of league or sport.

NBA: Nets, Knicks, & Raptors

The NBA is a bit harder to weigh because Toronto and New York City are equidistant. In terms of dedicated fans, the Knicks and Raptors far outshine the Nets. Finger Lakes fans are more likely to drift toward one or the other above Brooklyn. But from there, tastes diverge greatly. 

The Knicks represent a prestigious and storied franchise. Though they’ve struggled over the last two decades, fans don’t seem to mind. On the other hand, the Raptors are a younger and fresher franchise. The past two decades, conversely, have yielded fantastic results for the team. However, NY fans might not feel particularly endeared to the ‘We the North’ slogan.

NHL: Sabres, Canadiens, & Rangers

When it comes to NHL fans in the Finger Lakes area, it’s a clear win for the Sabres. Unfortunately for local hockey fans, the Sabres haven’t had an outstanding legacy and now hold the NHL record for the longest playoff drought. Along with the Canucks, they’re the oldest franchise in the league to still lack silverware.

Others in the upstate region prefer the Rangers simply out of state loyalty. On the other hand, some support the Habs. Though Montreal is a bit farther away, the team’s incredible legacy and passion for ice hockey has made the fan experience worthwhile.

MLB: Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays

Anyone in the Buffalo area knows that it’s pretty much Yankees territory. The same is true in the Finger Lakes region—though there’s also a growing percentage of Blue Jays fans. Similar to Raptors NBA fans, there’s quite a bit of passion and excitement in Toronto surrounding its pro teams—and that’s something fans love to see. 

But what about the Mets? When it comes to support from upstate, the vast majority of baseball fans would choose the Yankees over the Mets. More hardcore fans of the sport might simply prefer the Rochester Red Wings. After all, although there aren’t any professional sides, there are still plenty of amateur leagues to follow.

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