By Lethbridge Herald on March 3, 2014.
With temperatures plunging on the weekend, the question needed to be asked. What is there to do on a cold winter night in Western Canada?
Of course, the good old hockey game.
And yes, stare at your phone.
At least, that seems to be the theory in the small-town homes of Western Hockey League teams.
An informal review of WHL teams, their city size, and the number of Twitter followers on the team’s official accounts, showed the five smallest markets in the WHL had the highest percentage of followers based on their population.
And it wasn’t even close.
Using statistics from the 2011 Canadian census (according to Wikipedia), Swift Current had a population of 17,535, believed to be the smallest market in all of Canadian junior hockey. The team’s official Twitter account had 4,724 followers this week, which accounted for a remarkable 26.94 per cent of the population.
The trend held true for all five of the WHL’s smallest markets. Listed from smallest population to largest, Cranbrook was next at 21.2 per cent, followed by Moose Jaw (16.94), Prince Albert (13.35), and Brandon (17.5).
The numbers fall off dramatically from there. None of the next five smallest markets (all cities between populations of 65,000 and 99,000) achieved double-digits. Kamloops Blazers, with 7,170 followers, accounted for 9.77 per cent of their market. They were followed close by Medicine Hat (5,969 followers for 9.09 per cent) and Red Deer (8,184 followers for 9.07 per cent).
Lethbridge Hurricanes checked in with 5,069 followers and 6.06 per cent, while Prince George had 3,534 followers and 5.39 per cent).
Of the remaining 12 teams in the league, only one managed a higher mark than that of Prince George, and it was the next smallest market. Everett Silvertips had 6,088 followers for 5.91 per cent of the market. With the population of the U.S. cities based on unofficial 2010 figures, Everett was the only American WHL market with more than 3.4 per cent of their market following the team’s official Twitter account.
Among the closest comparisons, based on population, Regina (pop. 192,756) had 3.81 per cent versus Tri-Cities (pop. 193,567) at 2.3 per cent; and Medicine Hat (pop. 65,671) had 9.09 per cent compared to Prince George (pop. 65,503) at 5.39 per cent.
The WHL’s largest markets face a tougher battle, as the cities boast much more competition while attempting to capture public interest. Vancouver (a negligible .005 per cent based on 11,400 followers in a city of 2,135,201) had easily the lowest rate, followed by Calgary (1.12) and Seattle (1.18). Edmonton, with about 165,000 fewer residents, almost doubled the Calgary rate of followers, with 20,900 followers for 2.18 per cent.
Other Canadian markets with WHL teams include Saskatoon (10,500 followers, 4.73 per cent), and Kelowna (6,332 followers, 4.47 per cent), and Victoria, 7,272 followers, 2.29 per cent).
It could also be noted, that of teams playing in markets of less than 100,000 people — cities with only one daily newspaper — only the Lethbridge Herald had more followers than their respective WHL team, Sometimes it’s better to stay home and simply read about the team.
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