Is there a phrase as painful as “Canada’s Stanley Cup drought”? It’s been twenty years since Montreal Canadians brought Lord Stanley’s Cup home, but how likely is it? Wunderkind Nate Silver attempted to answer that very question in his latest instalment of FiveThirtyEight, and here’s what we learned:
1. If a champion were chosen randomly, Canada would have a 99.2% change of bringing the cup home at least once in the past twenty years.
2. Teams that sneak into the playoffs rarely win; eleven of the past eighteen Stanley Cup Champions were first or second seeded.
3. Only fourteen per cent of the first or second seeded teams over the past eighteen years have been Canadian.
4. If NHL teams were distributed according to proportion of fan interest, Canada would have twelve to fourteen teams out of the thirty, instead of seven.
5. Though both Houston and Saskatoon are frequently mentioned as expansion possibilities, Silver estimates that only 2% of Houston fans are hockey fans versus 46% of Saskatoon.
6. All seven Canadian teams are making money; most US teams are losing money.
7. Silver thinks that part of the problem might be similar to what the Chicago Cubs went though in the seventies: we’ll buy tickets no matter how bad the team is doing, so there isn’t really a financial incentive to win.
8. Adding a second team to the Toronto area would make financial sense; said team would only need to capture 14% of the market to be making money. Montreal and Vancouver could easily handle second teams too.
9. Per-game ticket revenues in non-traditional US markets have only grown by 1.4 per cent over the past eighteen years, compared to 2.6 per cent in traditional US hockey markets and 4.6 per cent in Canada. Facts don’t support the idea that hockey will ever be successful in the American Sun Belt.
10. For what it’s worth, Silver thinks that a league that looks like this will be more successful. In the West, the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Seattle Metropolitans, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, and St Louis Blues. In the East, the Hamilton Tigers, Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Maroons, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Nordiques, Toronto Legacy, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Brooklyn Islanders, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals.
Get on it, Bettman.
Check out Nate Silver’s full post, “Why Can’t Canada Win the Stanley Cup?”