The NHL Is Back!

As a Canadian my winter so far had felt a bit empty. That is, it did until last Saturday. After missing most of the season due to a lockout caused by disputes between the league and the NHLPA (National Hockey League Players Association), hockey finally returned to our lives!

To celebrate the joyous occasion I decided to look at talk about hockey for today’s post. I used MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics platform, to look at talk surrounding the keywords “hockey” and “NHL.” I started my search way back in September when training camps and the preseason action should have been taking place. From September 1 to yesterday I found the terms mentioned 18.7 million times. There were 587,965 blog posts, 546,749 online news articles, 1,506,785 forum postings and 16,094,370 tweets.

Trending that data out over time gives us the popularity chart below. Throughout the chart we can see spikes in conversation, especially on Twitter, at major events in the lockout. The large spike in September was caused by the announcement that the hockey season would officially not be starting when it was scheduled to. The spike in December came from what was thought to be a breakthrough in talks about getting the season going, but wound up breaking down. And then the largest spike in the chart (in January) came from cheers as it was announced that the league and players had come to an agreement and there would still be half a season of hockey.

I dug a little bit deeper into the activity spike on January 6th to see what people were saying. First thing I noticed was that more men were talking about the “NHL” and “hockey” this day than women. Not a huge surprise even though I do know a large number of women that were excited about the announcement. What did throw me off a bit was how much more talk was coming from the United States (61.1%) over Canada (30.2%). Then I looked at the word cloud and buzzgraph. Here I found words one expect on a special day like this, such as “finally” “reached” “agreement.” The one that word that stands out in the word cloud that I thought didn’t fit was “JustinBieber.” It could be his fans spreading joy for the hockey happy Canadian popstar, but I decided not to investigate it any further.

Fast forward a week and a bit and we come to January 19th and the actual start of a hockey season. I decided to look at activity around the same key terms for the past week (January 17-23). Here I found that the excitement is still in the (online) air. In the past week I was able to find 1.7 million mentions of the “NHL” or “hockey.” There were 44,162 blog posts, 34,224 online news articles, 100,040 forum postings and 1,522,030 tweets.

Trending those mentions over time, we can see that there’s real excitement around hockey being back. Not a single day has had less than 100,000 Twitter mentions. The largest spike was of course on January 19th, opening day.

Again, I found that the majority of hockey excitement was coming from North America. Looking at this heatmap of “hockey” and “NHL” related tweets we can see a strong coverage across the continent. There also seemed to be quite a few Europeans excited about the game’s return as well. We can see some more excitement from around the globe as well, but they’re probably just Canadians abroad (kidding).

I then looked into the hashtags being most used around all this hockey talk. One of the most interesting was the “#HockeyIsBack” hashtag which mainly appeared om opening day. It was also interesting to see that 7 of the 10 most used hashtags were for teams. My hometown “#Leafs” seemed to have the most hashtags out of all the teams in the list.

I also pulled up the four most retweeted hockey tweets in the past week. Most of them seem to be jokes about the return of hockey, but the fourth most RT’d tweets was directly from the NHL’s official Twitter account getting people hyped up for Saturday’s grand return.

One thing I can say for sure is that people really are excited that hockey is back. Looking at sentiment for the past week I found that 47% of the conversation was positive and only 12% negative.

Welcome back hockey! We missed you.