So I opened up a Facebook account this week. I added the Atlanta Thrashers as one of my friends/interests. Right now the Thrashers have 3,210 Facebook friends. By comparison the Pittsburgh Steelers--one of the most successful franchises in the most popular sports league in North Amercia--have 200,631 friends. Ouch.
This got me thinking--how do the Thrashers compare to other non-traditional markets--and before you know I looked up all 30 teams. So here's the Facebook Friends NHL Rankings.
So what does this mean? Is this useful in anyway? Attendance figures are a popular way to measure support for a NHL team but they are contaminated by freebies, discounts and corporate buyers. I find the Facebook friends interesting because it requires the fans to seek out and select that option on their own. It is a user driven measure of interest.
On the downside the facebook numbers have a lot of "selection bias" in them--in plain English--young people in their 20s and 30s are more likely to be on Facebook and older people (the kind who can afford $70 tickets) are much less likely to be on Facebook.
On the other hand, Atlanta regularly ranks high on lists of the most "wired" cities in the USA. Other wired cities like Washington and San Jose are beating the pants off Atlanta right now.
So what do these figures mean--if anything? I'd say they are one indicator of interest in a hockey club among young people. They also appear to be greatly affected by winning. The bottom five teams (Phoenix, Kings, Thrashers, Panthers, Blue Jackets) have not experienced much on-ice success over the last several years. I've said it before "winning covers a multitude of hockey sins."
In the meantime, can't we round up 21 more people and pass Florida before the week is out?