Internet research is always an interesting thing to delve into. If you want an organic look at people’s feelings on a topic, sometimes surveys aren’t the best medium to gather information - after all, people can lie even on surveys. They answer how they think they want the survey giver wants them to answer, not necessarily how they feel, or in the moment they may not completely evaluate all of their thoughts on a topic. Folks just click through stuff to get done with it. We’ve all been there - we’ve all taken a survey on the Post-Dispatch’s website just to see an article, right?
Surveys are a drag. Real time info is where it’s at.
Apparently real time info shows that, out of the NHL’s 31 teams last season, some folks did not care for the Blues. According to ActionNetwork.com, a sportsbetting analysis site, they collected the data via social listening acquired through Linkfluence between July 2020 – July 2021. To determine the order of the list, the percentage of negative sentiment online was collected and put in order with highest percentage at the top. More information on their methodology (and the top ten results for every sport save MLB, which was not included in their analysis) can be found on the informational site for their breakdown of social media discussion.
Here’re the top ten NHL teams, and it is a surprising list:
This is... this is surprising. Now, as a caveat, the term “negative sentiment” does not necessarily imply that people are discussing how much they hate a rival team in real time as they’re watching a game. That type of sentiment can explain the presence of both the Flames and the Oilers here, because God knows that fans of those franchises do not care for their opposition. And sure, it can partially explain the Maple Leafs’ presence on the list too.
But you know what else explains why the Leafs are on that list? Fans of other teams just dunking on them on social media in general. Toss in their own fans and their complicated relationship with the Leafs and it’s actually shocking that they weren’t higher on the list. The phenomema of non-game related commentary about how awful a franchise is (by either fans of other teams or fans of that very franchise) probably explains why the Sabres are up there. No one actually hates Buffalo (except its own players), but fans of hockey in general aren’t happy with how the team has been treating its captain, Jack Eichel, let alone the miserable state of the team for the last decade or so.
I wish I could explain why Dallas wound up as number one. My money is on Jamie Benn jokes not letting them slide down in the rankings.
Vancuover being on the list? Rough season. Columbus? Torts and a rough season combined. Arizona? Have you met the Coyotes?
And then there’s the Blues. The negative sentiment expressed about the team as a percentage of social media posts isn’t crazy high, but it’s high enough. Why?
The data went through July of 2021 and obviously does not include any of the sweetheart season after the team won the Stanley Cup. Between June of 2020 and July of 2021, there have been two obscenely early playoff exits coupled with poor post-season play. The team lost Alex Pietrangelo in free agency, and is still going through the Vladimir Tarasenko drama. Zach Sanford is still nearly universally dunked on by Blues Twitter, which probably accounts for at least half of those negative tweets.
So no, this isn’t necessarily about what teams are most hated - it’s also about what teams have the most issues. There’s a badge of honor in being a hated team. Ask a Blackhawks fan from the mid 2010s or a Wings fan from the 2000s if they care that other teams’ fans hate them, and they won’t be able to hear you because of all of the Stanley Cup rings in their ears.
When your own fans start complaining, like Blues fans; when fans of other teams start expressing pity, like other fans and the Sabres; or when the entire hockey universe lines up to mock you every time you leave the playoffs early, like Toronto, well, you’re going to rank highly in negative fan sentiment.
On the other hand, as a percentage of on-line sentiment, the negative stuff is pretty small. Maybe that’s a good sign for the NHL’s franchises. Frustrated fans or not, the good outweighs the bad.