Survey: Edmonton top sports city in Canada

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:09 PM ET

Just to let recent arrivals in on what us old-timers have known for a long time ... Edmonton is the No. 1 sports city in the country.

Dr. Reginald Bibby, the Edmonton-raised sociologist who plies his trade at the University of Lethbridge, clearly demonstrates it.

Bibby has earned nationwide notoriety for his wide-sweeping studies of social trends in Canada. Every five years since 1975, Bibby has produced what he calls Project Canada national surveys. The latest offering is summarized in the July 1 editions of MacLean's magazine.

Bibby's work came to my attention in his 1995 book, which included a graph demonstrating curling was 2.5 times more popular than the NFL in Canada's Prairie provinces.

I liked the honesty of Bibby's research, even though sports makes up just a tiny fraction of his extensive and detailed work. For the first time ever, the survey compares popularity levels of sports in the five Canadian cities that have both NHL and CFL franchises - with some myth-busting results.

Bear in mind, the survey was taken between July and November of 2005. During this cycle, the survey was conducted as NHL popularity was reeling after a bitter lockout and roughly during the entire 2005 CFL season.

Still, the percentage of Canadians who expressed very strong or fairly strong interest in the NHL remained steady at 30% compared to 2000, suggesting a bounce is likely in the future.

Football came out the big winner in the six-sport comparison.

"The notion that we live or die by the NHL is an exaggeration,'' said Bibby.

According to Bibby, interest in pro football has increased in the past 15 years from 20% to 24% nationwide, a large part of which is attributed to the resurgence of the Montreal Alouettes.

The biggest numbers loser was major-league baseball, which dropped from 30% during the Blue Jays' glory days in the early '90s, to 13% today ... or about the same as figure skating, which is down from a high of 20% five years ago.

There are plenty of interesting factoids that jump out ...

1) Edmonton had the No. 2 and 3 overall market penetration in all sports, with the Oilers a slight second to Calgary's love-in with the Flames. It's no stretch to claim the Oilers playoff run bumped Edmonton's NHL numbers into No. 1 and the percentage into vast majority territory. An interesting result in Edmonton is the CFL's popularity ... just 2% lower than the NHL's. Does that mean NHL supporters are much more vocal about what was virtually an equal level of support last year? Or does it have something to do with the Esks' Grey Cup run?

2) Only in Toronto does the NFL's intense marketing campaign make NFL football more popular than the three-down brand. That kinda explains why the Argos signed Ricky Williams. Because of that area's huge population base, it does tend to skew national numbers.

3) NHL interest is at 19% in Montreal, with the CFL at 18%.

4) At 10%, Edmonton's interest in the NBA is second only to Toronto's 13% ... and higher than the 7% in Vancouver, which used to have an NBA franchise.

5) Edmonton's interest in major-league baseball is also statistically No. 2 behind Toronto's.

As for this survey's glaring omission of curling, I joked with Dr. Bibby that, at least in Edmonton, curling holds a huge edge in interest over the NFL.

"I suspect you're probably right,'' Bibby said. 


Videos

Photos