The National Hockey League has changed its product in the last 10 years.
It’s become faster. It’s gotten less violent, as an organic drop in fighting combined with new attention to player safety. It’s gotten more competitive, thanks to the forced parity of the points system and a divisional playoff format that keeps average-to-mediocre teams within reach of a wild card for most of the season. And, of course, it’s gotten lucky, with a parade of large market American teams playing for and/or winning the Stanley Cup, sometimes dynastically.
So what do hockey fans think of the NHL, as we move from 2016 to 2017?
To quite Larry David: Prrrrrretty, pretty good.
According to a new Yahoo Sports/YouGov poll, 68 percent of U.S. hockey fans believe the currently product is “good.” That’s in comparison with other pro sports leagues, and a measure of game play, fan experience and marketing by the NHL.
That 68 percent included 21 percent of fans who said the product is “excellent,” and 47 percent that said it’s “very good.” More fans (30 percent) believe the NHL is “average” in comparison to other leagues than “excellent.”
However, just two percent of respondents said the NHL product is “poor.”
The demographic splits tell a similar story, although there’s what you’d call a “nostalgia curve” happening.
As you can see, fans 18-34 and 35-54 rate the NHL over 70 percent positive. In fact, fans 35-54 didn’t have enough respondents saying the NHL product was “poor” or “very poor” to even register.
However, fans 55-and-older have a different view of the NHL. Only 53 percent rated the current product as “good,” with 44 percent saying “average.” One assumption: The dramatic shift away from physical play and fighting, which a fan from the 1970s obviously was drawn to back in the day.
Still, just three percent said “poor.”
Men (71 percent) rated the NHL as net “good” while 61 percent of women did; for “average,” 36 percent of women and 27 percent of men rated the NHL that way.
The highest rate of satisfaction geographically? The West, as 77 percent of fans said the NHL product is net “good.” Guess that’s what happens when all three California teams have had varying degrees of success in the last several years.
One other interesting bit in this survey, when it comes to die-hard and casual fans:
As you can see, the most dedicated NHL fans rate the current product extraordinarily high: 88 percent say it’s net “good.” But more casual fans will only go as high as 57 percent, with 40 percent saying the product is average at best.
For die-hards, the product is something they’re happy to consume, with half rating it excellent. But casual fans, at least in comparison with other leagues, still think the product is somewhere between good and middling.
How would you rate the NHL, currently? Answers in the comments, please.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,180 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th – 17th November 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18-plus).
Graphics by Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports
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