Millennial fans have Stanley Cup Playoff apathy, survey reveals

Getty Images
Getty Images

The NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs are, arguably, the most arduous and intense postseason tournament in any sport.

It’s limited to 16 teams, playing four rounds of seven-game series. Overtime is played like regulation, and can add hours to games. It’s a brutal conclusion to an already marathon-like season.

Yet when it comes to ratings, the Stanley Cup Playoffs rarely produce numbers commiserate with the overall size of the NHL’s fan base. One popular theory, backed up by the numbers: Fans simply stop watching the postseason if their favorite team isn’t playing in it.

That’s certainly true of the early rounds. According to a new Yahoo Sports/YouGov poll, only 27 percent of NHL fans in the U.S. watch the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs if their team isn’t involved – and 22 percent of NHL fans say they “don’t watch any playoff games if my favorite team isn’t involved.”

Here’s a look at the results:


The good news for the NHL, obviously, is that viewership seems to grow as the playoffs grow later – half of NHL fans in the U.S. will watch the Stanley Cup Final even if their favorite team isn’t playing for the Cup.

But the numbers get really interesting, and a little frustrating for the NHL, when you break it down demographically:


Only 31 percent of fans 18-to-34 watch the Stanley Cup Final if their team isn’t involved, which is steeply down from the 57 percent of 35-to-54 fans and 71 percent (!!!) of fans 55 and older.

The NHL has pumped a lot of money into trying to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Final in particular, into a vital shared viewing experience for fans. The League even changed the playoff format to a more “March Madness” style bracket, going with a divisional rivalry-based playoff rather than a conference-based one.

For whatever reason – the time of year, competition from other forms of entertainment, whatever – Millennial fans haven’t made watching the Stanley Cup Final a priority.

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).

Up Next: How do fans consume their NHL news?

Graphics by Paul Rosales/Graphics Editor, Yahoo Sports

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.