While today's public sports fan debate centers on the quality of Miami Heat fans, The New York Times' resident stats geek Nate Silver decided to focus on the quality and quantity of NHL fans last month. His conclusion: The Florida Panthers should either move to Canada or be eliminated.
See, while Canada is certifiably hysterical for hockey, not a single Canadian NHL team has won the Stanley Cup in 20 years. That's a trend that will be continued as the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks are currently battling out in the finals. (Yes, Miami, there is another pro sports final going on right now. Who knew?)
Silver thinks there should be more teams in Canada (where interest in hockey is high), and less in parts of America where the greater population barely pays attention to the sport. His method of determining the size of a team's fan base is a bit weird, but it seems to check out: He used a formula that took into account the number of people in a team's home media market who have Googled the phrase "NHL."
On that metric, just five percent of people in the combined media market of Broward and Miami-Dade counties would be considered "avid NHL fans," and that means the team's fan base can be estimated about 172,610 people. That's the second lowest in the league, only topping Nashville. (This model doesn't take into account transplants from the north whose interest in the NHL is tied to other teams.)
Silver then compares a team's fan base to operating income. Unsurprisingly, teams playing in markets with lower hockey interest tend to lose money. According to Forbes, the Panthers' operating income last year was negative 12 million dollars. It's not just the team's jerseys that put them in the red.
Silver's ultimate edict: "The six United States markets with fewer than 300,000 N.H.L. fans would lose their teams." And that includes the Panthers.
So, goodbye Florida Panthers. Hello Quebec Panthères? In Silver's ideal world, but of course that's all just fancy numbers.
Besides, maybe if the Panthers weren't one of the worst teams in the NHL almost every single season, we're sure South Florida fans would at least leave early during their playoff games, too.
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