NHL: Woe Canada. Loss of home teams in playoffs may drive viewers away - study

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadians are passionate about hockey but many may tune out of the NHL playoffs now that no teams are able to end the country’s decades-long Stanley Cup drought this year, according to survey from the Angus Reid Institute on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Apr 19, 2019; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Mark Jankowski (77) and goalie Mike Smith (41) react after their game against the Colorado Avalanche in game five of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Avalanche won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Three of the seven Canadian-based National Hockey League teams qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs but each fell in the first round, bringing familiar heartache for fans and potential trouble for Canada’s broadcasters, the survey said.

According to the online survey from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute, 56 percent of Canadians tuned in to the first round of the playoffs, where the Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs carried the nation’s Stanley Cup hopes.

Calgary, which were the top seed in the Western Conference, lost their best-of-seven series to Colorado in five games, while Winnipeg fell to St. Louis in six games followed by Toronto’s loss to Boston in a decisive seventh game on Tuesday.

Their early playoff exits ensures the Stanley Cup will be presented to a U.S. team for the 26th consecutive season and does not bode well for ratings.

In 2016, when for the first time in more than 40 years no Canadian teams made the playoffs, 45 percent of Canadians polled by Angus Reid said they would follow the action.

“While many Canadians are likely disappointed with the poor showing by Canada’s teams, executives at Canada’s broadcasters - Sportsnet and CBC - probably woke up Wednesday feeling morose as well,” the study said.

When asked during the first round which team they believe will snap the country’s Stanley Cup drought, 31 percent of the Canadians polled picked Toronto, 18 percent chose Winnipeg and 3 percent said no Canadian team would ever win it again.

While there is a territorial nature of hockey fans and rivalries that cross generational lines, it appears there would be some unity across Canada, which has not had a Stanley Cup winner since Montreal in 1993, should the drought ever end.

“A Stanley Cup would likely mean a lot to Canadians,” the poll said. “Among those who follow hockey, 62 percent say that they are willing to cheer for any Canadian team if their favorite is knocked out.”

The poll was conducted from April 18-23 with 1,544 Canadian adults and had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar