Popularity of Canadian NHL Teams (2023)

Ever wonder which Canadian-based NHL team is the most popular in Canada? Of course popularity is a bit subjective, so I thought that I would look at some actual data to see which of the NHL’s Canadian teams were the most popular in Canada.

One of the historical criteria that makes a hockey fan a hockey fan is geographical proximity to their favourite hockey team.  While this is not always the case, quite often the majority of a fanbase is based on proximity of that market.  It’s probably not a coincidence that growing up in northern Alberta, I was always a fan of the Edmonton Oilers (and they are still my favourite team).  I was also a fan of the Vancouver Canucks.

Think about it even when there were only the original six hockey teams in the National Hockey League, most Canadian hockey fans were either a fan of the Montreal Canadiens or the Toronto Maple Leafs. There were of course fans of the four US-based teams specifically Detroit and Boston, but for the most part being a hockey fan meant that you cheered for your “local” team… or at least the team that was closest to you based on location. The Digital Age means that you can be a fan of a team from anywhere. A few years back we looked at the most popular NHL teams and found that based on Twitter followers (at the time), the Chicago Blackhawks were the most popular team (again at that time… which they were winning Stanley Cups).

This changed as league superstars start to emerge as fans of Gordie Howe rooted for the Red Wings, fans of Bobby Hull loved the Blackhawks and fans of Bobby Orr followed the Bruins.

With expansion the NHL has expanded on numerous occasions from six to twelve teams, from fourteen to twenty-one, from twenty-four to thirty-two where the league stands today.  There’s talk of even adding a couple of more teams bringing the total up to 34 franchises. It’s no wonder why it’s been thirty years since a Canadian-based NHL team has won the Stanley Cup. Well that drought may be nearing an end with the play of both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers this season.

Being a Canadian hockey fan and Search expert, I thought that it would be fun to see which Canadian teams’ fans throughout Canada cheered for most.  The results were interesting to say the least. Using results based on Google Search activity, I broke down which Canadian NHL teams were most popular by region.

Western Conference Canadian-based Teams

Let’s begin in the Western Conference shall we, where four of the seven Canadian teams reside.  It looks like the Edmonton Oilers are the favourite western-based Canadian NHL franchise throughout many of the provinces. (Data is based on past twelve months of search activity).

Search activity is based on searches for the four Western Canadian-based NHL teams (and does not include Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa)

  • The Oilers were the most popular Canadian franchise in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario east (reminder that Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa is not included in this portion of the analysis)
  • In British Columbia, the Canucks were the most “popular” based on search activity
  • The Winnipeg Jets were the most popular in Manitoba and Nunavut. 
Map of Canadian-based NHL teams by popularity
Source: Google Trends

Search trends over the past twelve month illustrate that the Oilers and Flames were the most searched for Western Canadian NHL teams, due in part to their playoff match up in May of 2022.

Search interest by western-Canadian NHL teams

Here is a breakdown of interest by region for each team:

Vancouver Canucks interest by province
Interest for Vancouver Canucks
Calgary Flames interest by province
Interest for Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers interest by province
Interest for Edmonton Oilers
Winnipeg Jets interest by province
Interest for Winnipeg Jets

These initial findings seem to back up the theory that proximity of the fanbase is still a thing.

Eastern Conference Canadian-based Teams

Looking at the three Canadian-based teams in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Maple Leafs reign supreme throughout the country with the exception of Quebec and Nunavut.

Map of Popularity of Eastern Conference NHL Teams based in Canada
Popularity of Eastern Conference Canadian-based Teams

Again, looking at the search activity trends we see a spike come playoff time for the “Toronto Maple Leafs” as they again suffered a first-round playoff exit.

Search Interest of Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens
Search Activity for Canadian-based teams in the Eastern Conference

Here is a breakdown of interest by region for each Eastern Canadian-based team:

Toronto Maple Leafs interest by province
Interest of Toronto Maple Leafs
Ottawa Senators interest by province
Interest of Ottawa Senators
Montreal Canadiens interest by province
Interest of Montreal Canadiens

So based on search popularity it looks like Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers are the three most popular teams in Canada.

Let’s take a look at how these three teams measure up against each other.

Who’s more popular?  Leafs, Oilers or Habs?

If you are from the west and attend an NHL game in one of the Western Canadian NHL cities, you no doubt take notice of all of the Leafs or Habs fans that are in the stands when Toronto or Montreal does their Western swing each year. The two original six teams still have a lot of fans out West.  Here’s a look at the popularity of the Edmonton Oilers as compared to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.  Looks like the Oilers still rule the West while Toronto is more popular in Ontario, Atlantic Canada and Manitoba.  Montreal dominates in Quebec and to a lesser extent in Nunavut.

Map of Popularity between Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens
Source: Google Trends

Toronto is most popular with fans in Ontario, Newfoundland/Labrador, Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick.

Maple Leafs interest by province compared to Montreal and Edmonton

Montreal is most popular in Quebec, Nunavut, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI:

Montreal Canadiens interest by province compared to Oilers and Maple Leafs

The Oilers are most popular in Alberta, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.

Edmonton Oilers interest by province compared to Maple Leafs and Canadiens

Based on this data from Google, there is still something to be said for fans being “homers” and having an affliction for NHL teams that are in closest in proximity to them.  In the end, if we rank the popularity of Canadian NHL teams it would look like this:

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs
  2. Edmonton Oilers
  3. Montreal Canadiens
  4. Winnipeg Jets
  5. Calgary Flames
  6. Vancouver Canucks
  7. Ottawa Senators
Google Search volume for names of Canadian NHL teams

The Toronto Maple Leafs are the most popular Canadian NHL team in Canada, followed by the Edmonton Oilers (largely on the strength of the games greatest player in Connor McDavid) and the storied Montreal Canadiens are the third most popular Canadian-based NHL team.