Your Insights: Alberta Fans React to the Return of the NHL

The NHL lockout has taken a toll on fan enthusiasm in Alberta, with fan support cutting in half and significant proportions of Albertans planning to watch (52%) or attend (62%) games less often than before the lockout. Furthermore, half of Albertans (48%) agree that they will boycott the NHL in one way, shape or form.

Calgary, AB — A new Insights West online survey of 526 Alberta adults conducted following the announcement of the NHL’s new collective bargaining agreement finds that, with the lockout now ended, fan support has fallen by close to half (46% vs. 24% post-lockout).

The NHL and its returning teams face potentially significant erosion in fan support as the season resumes. Prior to the lockout, 46% of Albertans considered themselves to be “fanatical”, “huge” or “regular fans”, but this proportion has fallen to 24% post-lockout. The percentage of Alberta adults who do not consider themselves to be fans at all grew from just 1% to 16% post-lockout.

Along with decreased fan enthusiasm, the Alberta public is less likely to watch NHL games, with 52% saying they will watch games less often than before the lockout (34% “significantly less often”) and 41% planning to watch about the same number of games. Of the 70% of Albertans who attended NHL games before the lockout, 62% report they will be attending games less often (53% “significantly less often”), while 31% say their game attendance will stay “about the same.”

Many have speculated whether or not fan resentment will linger throughout this shortened season. When asked to think ahead to when the season is in full swing 3 months down the road, two-thirds of Albertans (68%) feel they personally will still hold some resentment toward the NHL over this dispute, while 21% believe they will go back to being the regular fans they were before the lockout; a further 10% are uncertain how they will feel. Interestingly, men are more likely to say they will personally harbour some resentment (76%) than women (60%).

“The NHL hockey season has traditionally been something that hockey fans look forward to each year,” says Jane Ha-Trapp, Vice President of Insights West. “Our survey results show that although the lockout has ended, Albertans hold significant resentment towards the NHL and it will be interesting to see if fans continue to be bitter about the lockout as the season progresses, or if the thrill of the game will bring them back.”

Most Albertans are not sure who got the better end of the NHL agreement, with 58% saying they don’t know which party fared best, the players or the owners; meanwhile 20% feel that both parties fared equally. Albertans are slightly more likely to think the owners fared better compared to the players (12% vs. 9%, respectively).

A series of agree/disagree statements shows that Albertans are angry about the way fans have been treated and want the NHL to suffer as a result. More than four-in-five (81%) Albertan adults agree they are “upset about the lockout and how the fans have been treated” (53% strongly agree). In fact, close to half (48%) agree that they “will boycott the NHL in one way, shape, or form,” with men being more likely to agree (59%) than women (37%). Over half of Albertans (53%) also agree that the lockout has resulted in their “watching other sports more often.” However, there’s still a substantial proportion of Albertans (42%) who “plan to support their favourite team the same as always.”

As the season resumes, the NHL will have to deal with the lingering impact of the lockout on other parts of the organization and the businesses surrounding the game. Among the most likely to suffer are NHL merchandise retailers – 45% of Albertans say they will buy NHL merchandise less often, while 18% plan to purchase at the same level as pre-lockout. Albertans are also likely to scale back other activities, such as watching games in bars or pubs (34% less often, 26% same), participating in NHL hockey pools (28% less often, 17% same), donating to an NHL-related charity (25% less often, 13% same) or betting on NHL game outcomes (22% less often, 10% same). Overall, men are more likely to intend to reduce their frequency of most activities compared to women.

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company that exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis, through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary, and has five full-time, and six part-time employees.

Results are based on an online study conducted in January 8-13, 2013 among 526 Albertans aged 18+ who are Your Insights panel members. YourInsights.ca is Insights West’s in-house access panel offering on-demand samples for both clients and research suppliers looking for Western Canadian populations. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for Alberta for age, gender, and region. Results have a margin of error of +/-4.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. To view the detailed data tabulations, click here.

For further information, please contact

Jane Ha-Trapp
President, Insights West
403-860-5277
janehatrapp@insightswest.com