Canadiens edge the Maple Leafs as Atlantic Canada's favourite NHL team
Poll indicates 26% of Atlantic Canadians support the Montreal Canadiens and 20% prefer the Toronto Maple Leafs
It's official — hockey lovers across Atlantic Canada can't get enough of their Canadian roots, as a new poll shows support is highest for the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.
A survey, conducted by Corporate Research Associates Inc., shows 26 per cent of respondents say the Canadiens is their favourite NHL team, while 20 per cent chose the Leafs.
Other NHL teams supported by Atlantic Canadians included the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins, both with 4 per cent support. All other teams were supported by one per cent of respondents or fewer.
But nearly two out of 10, or 17 per cent, of those surveyed said they do not watch or follow hockey. The same amount of respondents said they simply don't have a favourite team, and two per cent didn't offer an opinion.
The results are part of the CRA Atlantic Quarterly, an independent quarterly telephone survey. They are based on a sample of 1,503 adult Atlantic Canadians obtained between Nov. 10 and Dec. 1, 2016.
CRA said the overall results are accurate to within plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 95 out of 100 times.
"Only in New Brunswick is there a clear preference for one team over the other," he said.
In New Brunswick, the Canadiens are the preferred team of 35 per cent of respondents, while the Leafs were named by just 16 per cent.
In the other three Atlantic provinces, the gap is no more than three per cent. The Canadiens lead in all but Prince Edward Island where Toronto takes the top spot with 24 per cent over Montreal's 21 per cent.
As a Habs fan, Mills said he was happy about the results, but not surprised for two reasons
"One [reason] is the proximity to Quebec with New Brunswick, I suppose," he said in an interview.
"Plus, also, the Francophone population tends to be a lot more likely to support the Canadiens than the Maple Leafs for sure."
For Audrey Morrell, it's been a life-long affair with the Montreal Canadiens, and to her, they'll always be the winning team.
"I have always loved the Habs. I grew up watching and have always stayed a true supporter of them no matter win or lose," she said.
"To me, years ago, they were the team that played the best hockey, fair hockey, even if you watch them now … I guess my biggest part is that they are to me the most sportsmen like team."
Although Montreal leads the poll, die-hard Toronto fans are known for being unapologetic and, like many Canadian things, rooted in family tradition.
Jonathon Busse said his love for the Maple Leafs is born out of a long family history.
"My father is a Leafs fan, my mother is a Leafs fan, her father was a Leafs fan," he said.
Busse, a Newfoundland and Labrador native, suggested another factor: location. Where a family lives sometimes dictates which team's radio station they could hear.
He said in Newfoundland, the west coast was Leafland, the east coast Newfoundland was Habs territory, and the southern shore went for Boston.
"And [his grandfather] talked about the radio frequency of the Leafs being the strongest," Busse said.
Mills said the love for one's team tends to be passed down from generation to generation.
"It certainly is in my family. I mean, they wouldn't be able to live with me if they weren't a Habs fan."
Ryan Barton, another Leafs fan, said while not everyone is a lover of the sport, it would be difficult to find someone his age who didn't grow up with Hockey Night in Canada as a television staple.
"So, if you take that as a factor, it's a relationship builder," Barton said.
"Families or groups of friends hanging out together while the game is on, either enjoying it, or ignoring it, but spending time with each other."
With files from Shane Fowler