Sports blog FiveThirtyEight recently published a piece on the popularity of sports teams in North America based on Google searches. The website ran through the NHL’s numbers of most popular teams based on searches and what was revealed was not only which team ice hockey fans are most interested in but which team they couldn’t care less about.
Three Canadian hockey clubs topped the list of Google search popularity with the Montreal Canadiens coming in first followed by Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks second and third, respectively. All seven of the Canadian NHL teams, in fact, landed 16th or higher on the list among all 30 teams.
Amazingly, the results show that even Western Canadian teams such as the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets get more Google searches than United States’ teams in larger markets. Of course, with ice hockey being the Canadian national pastime it is easy to see why these teams are the most searched.
Comparatively, hockey is the fourth — and sometimes fifth — most popular sport in the U.S. It isn’t broadcast on the country’s biggest sports channel nor are the NHL’s highlights readily available. Out of sight, out of mind.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, who are located in a city with a metro population of more than two million residents as of 2016, are ranked dead last in Google search popularity. While many may blame the city’s size, it can be argued that Columbus isn’t the strongest hockey town in the United States regardless of population as the team ranked 23rd in attendance in the league this year.
Searches and Attendances
A comparison can be drawn, however, between Google searches and teams with the best attendances in 2016-17.
Montreal is second in attendance drawing over 21,200 fans a game while the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, first and third in attendance, respectively, rank fifth and sixth overall in search engines.
Perhaps one of the real disparities are the Boston Bruins, which are fourth in Google search popularity but 18th in attendance.
Regardless of how many fans attend games, the Bruins are playoff-bound this season after yet another solid NHL year.
Disparity of Stanley Cup Winners
Despite the popularity of Canadian NHL teams, the Great White North hasn’t produced a cup winner since Montreal last captured the Stanley Cup in 1993. In those 24 years since les habitants previous win, five Canadian clubs have made it to the cup finals, though all have fallen short.
Entering the 2016-17 Stanley Cup Playoffs, hopes of bringing that trend to an end are high as Canada has five representatives in the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs — Montreal, Edmonton and Calgary as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators.
Three of those teams — Montreal, Ottawa and Edmonton — were among the NHL’s best this season with 98-plus point campaigns.
Can a Canadian team lift Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2016-17?
Sports betting website Bovada doesn’t think so. The bookie has listed the Edmonton Oilers as the seventh favorite team to win. The Oilers are listed at +1200 (meaning a wager of $100 wins you $1200 if Edmonton wins the Stanley
Cup). Montreal sits just behind the Oilers in the odds at +1400 followed by Calgary (+2800), Toronto (+2800)
and Ottawa (+3300).
Bovada’s odds-on favorite to win the cup are the Chicago Blackhawks at +425.
Main Image: (The Montreal Canadiens acknowledge the fans after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on May 9, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Canadiens defeated the Lightning 2-1. The Lightning lead the series 3-2. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)