I recall a few weeks ago that social media was busy discussing comments made by NHL player agent Kevin Epp about the interpretation of Vancouver as a hockey market full of negativity. I believe he was visiting with a couple of the fellas over at Sportsnet-650 radio when he shared his angst about the angst. His thoughts came in the context of defending his client Jake Virtanen, who recently became a former-Canuck, regarding sexual assault accusations. Epp, who’s Vancouver based, issued a written statement.
“Sexual assault is a very serious and harmful problem, and being accused of this, even without any criminal charges being laid, has devastating consequences,” Epp stated. At the time both the team and Vancouver Police were investigating. Virtanen, the team’s former 6th-overall draft pick in 2014, was waived and bought out by the club on July 25th.
It was during the course of the conversation on the radio that the negativity issue regarding the fans and/or the media was raised.
So either as a reaction to how his client was being treated, or in making the observation in general, or both, Epp called out the negativity in the market. I’m not a huge analytics guy, but as it turns out in this case, the analytics prove Epp correct.
Whatever point he was trying to get across was backed up by a recent study and article released by the “Action Network”, that says 17 of the top fifty most negatively talked about professional franchises were in hockey, and of those seventeen, the Vancouver Canucks were the 4th most negative. They were 7th overall in the entire list of the major sports franchises in Canada and the US, which included the NFL, NBA, Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball. It clearly indicated that hockey fans have a tendency to be the most negative.
First of all, that last part is simple. There are more casual, mainstream fans of the other major sports for sure, but the depth of their passion and commitment doesn’t compare to that of the tighter hockey fan population. The surface area of the pool is smaller in comparison, but the hockey water runs deeper.
The website described its methodology this way: To collect the data, social listening was utilized and 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. The results were released on August 25th.
The Las Vegas Raiders of the NFL were far and away the most negatively talked about franchise with 14.2% negativity. The Dallas Stars, a bit of a head scratcher, were next (9.86%), then the Arizona Coyotes (9.33%), the Philadelphia 76ers (9.18%), the Chicago Bears (8.99%), the Toronto Maple Leafs (8.85%), and then the Vancouver Canucks (8.57%). Just behind the BC boys, their 1970 expansion brethren, the Buffalo Sabres (8.29%).
Part of this likely has to do with the fact that the Canucks have only made the playoffs twice in the last eight seasons and they’re coming off one that was a complete disaster. Part of it may also have to do with a limited number of media voices or styles in the market. Regardless of which city, some hockey journalists, writers or electronic, take a more negative approach, just like some may be good at the X’s and O’s, some with the personalities and the interviews, while some are pretty good at all of it.
Meanwhile, fans can be upset for the obvious reasons or for things a bit more perplexing. Who knows, this wasn’t a psychology poll. Yet fan sentiment can often be dictated by media voices, which is why more voices is obviously better than less. Every player, every coach, every media person will have likers and dislikers, it’s human nature, and often times it’s the most obscure things that can send someone off or bring them onboard.
One would hope this index number will improve as the hockey team improves, fingers crossed for everyone involved, and more personalities and interesting angles are explored. Vancouver might be ready to think outside the box a little bit. Regardless, it’s almost time to drop the puck, which is great news for all of us.
Enjoy the hockey action.