Raptors, NHL playoffs, or the Jays: What sport were Canadians following more closely in May?

Claire Gummo

Claire Gummo

With the Raptors’ exciting Eastern Conference run officially at a close, we asked Canadians how closely they were following a number of professional sports in mid-May.

Here is what we found:

  • 26% of Canadians at least somewhat closely followed the NHL playoffs, followed by 25% who were following the Blue Jays regular season. The Raptors’ playoff run came in at third, with 24%.
  • There was a marked drop off when asked about PGA Golf- only 11% of Canadians said they were following it at least somewhat closely.
  • In contrast, the Giro d’Italia professional cycling race finished last with only 3% of respondents reported that they followed it at least somewhat closely.


Despite the absence of Canadian teams, the NHL playoffs was still followed by more Canadians than the Raptors’ playoff run or the Blue Jays’ regular season.

  • NHL hockey was particularly popular in Quebec, where 30% reported watching at least somewhat closely.
  • The only region that showed notably less interest than the national average was the Atlantic Provinces, where 54% of respondents told us they did not follow the NHL playoffs at all.
  • Half of Canadian Millennials reported that they followed the NHL playoffs at least a little. Older Canadians reported slightly more enthusiasm with 54% of 30-44-year olds and 59% of 45-59-year olds that reported following at least a little. The eldest cohort of 60+ was largely the same at 54%.
  • Men were more regular NHL viewers, with 35% following at least somewhat closely compared to 18% of women who reported the same.


After a successful and exciting 2015 season, half of Canadians we surveyed in May say they were following the Blue Jays at least a little, with one in four following the team somewhat or very closely.

  • The Jays were by far most popular in their home province of Ontario, where 67% of Ontarians reported following the Jays at least a little.
  • Quebecers were the least likely to report following the Blue Jays. Over two thirds (69%) reported not following the regular season at all. Still pining for their long lost Expos, perhaps?
  • The Jays were least popular among millennials (63% do not follow at all), with popularity rising alongside the age of viewers. Popularity hit its peak in the 60+ cohort- almost 3 of every 5 respondents (57%) reported following the Jays at least a little.
  • There was a significant gender gap in the Jays’ following- 60% of women say they don’t follow at all compared to 40% of men.


The Toronto Raptors’ ultimately unsuccessful playoff run gained them national attention – close to half (45%) of the nation reported that they followed the team at least a little:

  • However regionally, there were significant differences. In their home province of Ontario, 39% followed at least somewhat closely. This number dropped 30 points in Quebec, where only 9% of respondents followed at least somewhat closely.
  • Support was fairly consistent across the rest of the country with particular support in Saskatchewan (48% at least a little) and Atlantic Canada (44% at least a little).
  • The Raptors were most closely followed by Canadians aged 30-44 (25%) and aged 45-59 (27%). However Millennials and the 60+ also showed interest- 21% of each cohort followed the playoffs at least somewhat closely.
  • Similar to the Blue Jays, the Raptors displayed a gender gap of about 20 points. 65% of Canadian women did not follow at all compared to 45% of men.


PGA Golf proved significantly less popular than the NHL, MLB, or NBA:

  • 71% nationally reported they did not follow PGA Golf at all. These numbers were even higher in Alberta (74%) and Quebec (75%). The remaining regions were closer to the national average.
  • BC is home to the most loyal following- 15% of respondents reported that they followed it at least somewhat closely.
  • Golf appeared to be significantly more popular with older generations. 41% of Canadians aged 60+ reported they followed PGA Golf at least a little compared to only 12% of the 18-29 cohort.
  • PGA Golf was the least popular sport among women of those surveyed. More than 4 out of 5 women (82%) reported that they did not follow the league at all, compared to 3 out of 5 men (61%).  



As to be expected, the good old hockey game remains the most popular among Canadians across the country. However other pro sports teams, namely the Raptors and the Blue Jays, are catching up in popularity.

Though they have significant support in their home province of Ontario, the Raptors and the Jays do not enjoy quite the same nationwide attention as NHL hockey, even without any Canadian teams contending for the Stanley Cup. Particularly in Quebec, the teams do not have large local followings that monitor the teams closely, as with the NHL.

While we do not have data on interest in the Raptors in previous seasons, it is likely that the Lowry-led playoff run has led to increased attention. If this continues, we can expect basketball to give baseball and hockey a run for the money in terms of interest and an audience in the coming seasons.

Gender is also a significant factor, with women trailing on average 20 points to men when it comes to following pro-sports.

Age is most relevant in sports like golf, where the 60+ cohort makes up the largest fanbase.

In short, hockey remains the most universally popular across region, age, and gender, but other pro-sports are building significant followings in sub-groups that could give the NHL a run for its money.


Our survey was conducted online with 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and over from May 17 to 20, 2016. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of over 500,000 Canadians.

The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association policy limits statements about margins of sampling error for most online surveys.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of 2,000 is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Abacus Data Inc.

We offer global research capacity with a strong focus on customer service, attention to detail and value added insight. Our team combines the experience of our Chairman Bruce Anderson, one of Canada’s leading research executives for two decades, with the energy, creativity and research expertise of CEO David Coletto, PhD.

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