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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Millard

Stanley Cup feels: How Canadian fans of the Montreal Canadiens are reacting ahead of Game 1

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

When you're a fan of the home team, how do sports feel at their best? Something like this:

Early summer is a fantastic time of year to be a sports fan. Two of North America's major sports leagues, the National Hockey League (NHL) and National Basketball Association (NBA), are in the heat of their playoff tournaments. Meanwhile, baseball season is in full swing and the American football season is right around the corner. What's more, many international soccer tournaments are taking place. While we're absorbing the in-game action, it's also fun to analyze some reactions off the field, as we did with NBA superstars recently

Being good Canadians, it's only natural we took a look at what's going on with the NHL playoffs. The Montreal Canadiens, lovingly known as the Habs (from the Quebecois French "les habitants Canadiens"), have reached the finals for the fist time since 1993. There's an assumption that Canadians tend to rally together, especially in light of American opposition, so many others are proud a Canadian team has reached the finals for the first time since Vancouver did so in 2011. We looked to Canadian Twitter to find out whether this was true, and keep an eye out for other surprises.

We pulled all comments made by individuals on Twitter with the key words "Habs" and "Montreal Canadiens," as well as those tagged with the official @CanadiensMTL handle. We looked at English and French comments made in the days leading up to tonight's Stanley Cup Final Game 1. As expected, there's a lot of heat in the central core of the Map:

We coded the relevant results with the Q.i. MAPPER and plotted these associations on a Q.i. HeatMap. Q.i. HeatMaps use colour and distance to express the intensity and difference between various words we use to describe something. A simple heat scale from cool-blue to red-hot shows the intensity of association with various traits. The coloured "pie" underneath shows the broad relationships between 8 different types of traits. Negative words are displayed in the darker, outer band. Each coloured "slice" depicts groupings of thematically-related terms, positioned across from those with an opposite meaning. For example, in the yellow space we have the term "Exciting," whereas the green space contains "Quiet."

So what's interesting here is how a lot of the heat concentrates in what we call the "core" of the map, at the center. Since the model is built on the strength of association between words, the words with the strongest positive meaning cluster in the middle. These are the words Canadians are using to describe how they feel about the Canadiens.

More than half of the comments relate to a connection with the team: being a fan, thinking they're the best. These comments group just above the center of the map, where they're strongly related to a sense of home and belonging. We saw begrudging support even among regular rivals.

Another strong group of associations are tied to the team's performance: exceeding expectations, playing exciting counter-attacking hockey, and finding success at the end of a challenging season. These associations tend to cluster just below the very center of the map and are frequently related to a sense of achievement, overcoming obstacles, and action and excitement generally.

When we turn to the negatives around the outside edge of the map, it's apparent that there aren't many. Score one for team Canada! The negatives we do see are often from the diehard fans of other teams, who wouldn't dream of supporting another, even for a moment ("not for me").

Another contingent of negative associations seems to come from a place of some jealousy. After all, the Habs were a low-seeded team that barely made the playoffs. Combine their impressive performance (looking at you, Carey Price...) with the fact that they "shouldn't" be in the position they are, and it's easy to see why some fans are calling Montreal "Bad." However, in both cases these sticklers are well outnumbered by those willing to set aside rivalries to bring the Cup home. That is, set aside rivalries until the puck drops next season.

So, what happens next? Habs in 6? How wild will the celebrations (or commiserations) get? Leave your thoughts in the comments or contact us for more on this and future insights!

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