Your Insights on the Return of the NHL from the Lockout

BC hockey fans remain upset about the lockout, with fan support cutting in half, and a significant number saying they will watch (48%) or attend (64%) games less often than before the lockout.

Vancouver, BC — A new Insights West online survey of 608 BC adults conducted last week following the announcement of the NHL’s new collective bargaining agreement finds that fan support has dwindled by almost half over the course of the lockout (from 60% to 33%), and a significant proportion are planning to watch (48%) or attend (64%) games less often than prior to the lockout.

The NHL and the Vancouver Canucks face a potentially significant erosion in fan support following the return of the NHL next week. The proportion of British Columbians who call themselves “fanatical” or “huge” fans has moved from 25% to 12%, while the number who call themselves “regular,” “huge,” or “fanatical” has gone from 60% to 33%. Conversely, the number who report themselves as “not much of a fan,” or “not a fan at all” has more than doubled from 14% before the lockout to 40%. Only 1% of the BC public say that they were not a fan at all of NHL hockey before the lockout, whereas now 14% are in this category.

It’s not surprising then, that British Columbians’ intentions to watch and attend hockey games has also dropped considerably compared to before the lockout. Almost half (48%) of British Columbians say they will watch NHL games less often than before the lockout, (with 27% saying significantly less often, and 21% saying somewhat less often). About 45% say they intend to watch the same amount of games that they always have.

Plans to attend NHL games have also diminished in the wake of the lockout: of 69% of British Columbians who have attended games before the lockout, just under two thirds (64%) say they will be attending games less often (46% significantly less often; 19% somewhat less often). Fewer than one in three (28%) say they will attend about as often as before, once the season resumes.

“Negative sentiments among fans throughout the lockout process have been evident via twitter, and other social media and general commentary throughout the lockout,” says Steve Mossop, President of Insights West. “Our survey suggests that the sentiment is even more negative than we initially thought to be the case. The big question is whether fans will hold true to their intentions, or whether the excitement of the return of the game will be enough to bring them back into the fold.”

Currently public perceptions of the final agreement are a bit murky, as about half (48%) say they don’t know which party fared best out of the agreement, NHL players or owners; a further 21% say both parties fared equally. About double the number of people feel the owners (21%) did better than the players (8%) in the negotiated settlement.

There has been a lot of speculation as to whether the fan resentment will continue throughout this shortened season. When asked to think ahead to when the season is in full swing 3 months down the road, a majority (57%) feel they personally will still harbour some resentment toward the NHL over this dispute, while a mere 31% believe they will go back to being the regular fans they were before the lockout (and a further 10% are uncertain how they will feel). Similar numbers believe that NHL fans in general will feel the same way.

A series of agree/disagree statements reveals that British Columbians are upset about the lockout and how fans have been treated (or mistreated), and suggests that on some level there exists a desire to “punish” the NHL as a result. One-half (51%) of BC adults strongly agree that they are “upset about the lockout and how the fans have been treated”, and almost as many (43%) disagree, either strongly or somewhat, with the plan to “support their favourite NHL team the same as always”. In fact a significant number (39%) agree that they “will boycott the NHL in one way, shape or form.” The majority of BC adults also agreed that the lockout resulted in their “watching other sports more often” (53%).

The return of the NHL after the lockout will encounter lingering effects on other parts of the organization and the businesses surrounding the game. Many British Columbians are more reluctant to purchase NHL merchandise (44% will do so less often, 21% the same) or watch the games at bars or pubs (35% less often, 32% same). Even things like sports betting will be affected, such as participation in an NHL pool (26% less often, 22% same) or betting on NHL game outcomes (17% less often, 15% same), or donations to an NHL-related charity (17% less often, 25% same).

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 608 British Columbians 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 British Columbia for age, gender, and region. Results have a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. To view the detailed data tabulations, click here.

For further information, please contact:

Steve Mossop
President, Insights West

778-891-4762

stevemossop@insightswest.com