On Tuesday, ESPN released its second annual Top 100 Athletes list to the public. As expected, strong personal brands such as Lebron James, Christiano Ronaldo, and Usain Bolt made the top ten. The list was heavily filled with players from the NBA (13 athletes) and professional soccer leagues around the world (38 athletes). What I was surprised to see was that not a single NHL player was listed. Is this another hint to the NHL that their league is in trouble and their marketing efforts are garbage? Or is this just another lame ranking that pops up every now and then that nobody cares about.
I usually don’t pay attention to a lot of these Buzzfeed-esque lists that pop up every other week, but when I dug a little deeper, I was impressed to find out that ESPN used methods to make the ranking as objective as possible. With help from analysts and journalists across the world, ESPN developed an algorithm that ranked players using the following metrics:
- Endorsement Money
- Twitter Followers
- Instagram Followers
- Facebook Followers
- Google Trends Score
So it’s a popularity contest? It would appear so. Seeing as how you can’t actually rank the skills and abilities of athletes across a wide array of sports, we might as well rank them on how successful they are based on world perception.
So we know that Christiano Ronaldo has 52.7M Twitter followers and Alex Ovechkin only has 2.49M followers. Big deal, right? This seems like a pretty good fact for a lot of people to brush off and never think of again. I hope that’s not the case, though. I hope the NHL looks at this and realizes that it’s more than just an athlete ranking. In my opinion, this is more proof than ever that the NHL is falling behind in popularity amongst other sports across the world.
Could this be due to the fact that NHL culture frowns upon anyone celebrating too hard after scoring a goal, or cracking too many jokes to the media? I wrote about some examples of how the NHL is sucking the fun out of everything last year. The NHL isn’t helping itself attract new customers to the sport, and frankly after all the offside, goalie interference, and video review garbage we put up with this year, I’m surprised we’re still here, too. We see some of the biggest sports personalities play in leagues like the NBA and NFL. That’s a huge reason why they’re so profitable and why so many of their players fall on this Top 100 list. Not only does the NHL lack charisma, but it purposely avoids it.
The next closest player I could find in terms of Twitter following is P.K Subban with just over 900K followers. Alex Ovechkin, P.K Subban, and Roberto Luongo have three of the highest social media followings in the NHL and are also three of the biggest personalities in the league. Surprised? And yet the media and league continue to criticize P.K Subban more than anything for it. Sidney Crosby, arguably the league’s best player isn’t even on social media! Maybe instead of publicity training these pros when they’re 14 years old, we should encourage them to have some fun and do whatever the hell they want.
Seeing how ESPN just recently cut the majority of their hockey department, I wasn’t really surprised to see hockey left off of this list. Living in Edmonton, one of the greatest hockey cities in Canada, it’s hard to believe that the sport lacks popularity across the world. I’d be curious to see the list using the same metrics, but for Canada only. I’m sure that 80% of the list would be hockey players.