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Canadiens are Canada's top sports brand, says research firm Leafs fans now hate

Harrison Mooney
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Rogers Cup - Toronto

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TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 07: P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens watches play between Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France during Rogers Cup at Rexall Centre at York University on August 7, 2014 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Insightrix Research Inc. is a firm based in Saskatoon, the largest city in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. And like most residents of Saskatchewan, it's primary interest is the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.

The Roughriders are undoubtedly the strongest brand in the CFL (the best football league in the world, bar none, it's not even close, don't even try to argue). But where do they stand as a sports brand in relation to Canada's other major sports franchises?

Survey says: third, behind the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs, in first and second, respectively.

Yes, respectively. According to Insightrix Research's findings, the Montreal Canadiens are a stronger brand that the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

These are divisive results, especially in hockey-mad Canada, and especially in August, when hockey-mad Canadians are mostly just mad Canadians, because there's no hockey.

Torontonians are furious, and you can understand why. The Leafs may not have won a Stanley Cup since 1967, but that doesn't mean they haven't won anything. They consistently win polls and surveys like this, top reports, excel at franchise vaulations, and sit atop pretty much any chart that simply has to do with brand strength and moneymaking ability.

If you're wondering how Leafs fans maintain that superiority complex despite the near half-century that's passed since they were last superior, it's by winning the Stanley Cup of Canadian branding time and time again. And it's been taken from them.

Poor Insightrix. They simply wanted to do their Saskatchewanian duty and remind everyone how great the Roughriders are. But now they've stepped in it. 

“I don’t like Montreal. I disagree with this,” Torontonian Ethan Kopecky told Global News.

But while most Leafs fans are about this eloquent in voicing their issues with the findings, there are some valid gripes.

For instance: this survey, which polled 2,676 Canadians in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg, was conducted between May 8 and May 26. Here's a graphic representation of what the Canadiens and Leafs were doing between May 8 and May 26:

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Montreal was playing in May.

Montreal was playing in May.

Of course Montreal won in May. They were playing in May, and winning.

Over the span of this survey, they reached the Eastern Conference Finals, knocking off the top-ranked Boston Bruins in a thrilling seven-game series that captivated the whole country.

And sometime during this upset, or in the sweet, sweet afterglow of it, Canadians were asked who had the stronger brand: the team that bottomed out in spectacular fashion two months ago, or the team that just won your heart, employs the biggest name in the game right now in P.K. Subban, and defeated the franchise everyone in Canada -- nay, the world, -- hates.

But Insightrix wants you to know it's not just about what team people like. 

“It’s not a popularity contest. We’re not asking people ‘who is your favourite team?’ What it means is the strength of the brand, how is it perceived,” senior research executive Mario Caceres said.

Which is weird, since the second of the five categories is "perception of popularity", which basically means popularity, and the Canadiens won this popularity contest that wasn't a popularity contest pretty easily. Via Insightrix, here are the five categories from the poll, which was conducted online:

Most Respected 
1)Montreal Canadiens – 22.6%
2)Saskatchewan Roughriders – 12.2%
3)Toronto Blue Jays – 9.1%
4)Montreal Alouettes – 7.5%

Perception of Popularity
1)Montreal Canadiens – 20.8%
2)Saskatchewan Roughriders – 16.5%
3)Toronto Maple Leafs – 15.0%
4)Montreal Alouettes – 7.2%

Perception Most Loyal Fans
1)Montreal Canadiens – 22.5%
2)Saskatchewan Roughriders – 22.1%
3)Toronto Maple Leafs – 19.9%
4)Toronto Raptors – 6.7%

Perception of Best Stadium/Arena Atmosphere
1)Montreal Canadiens – 24.4%
2)Saskatchewan Roughriders – 16.2%
3)Toronto Maple Leafs – 10.5%
4)Toronto Raptors (Tie) – 6.9%
4)Montreal Alouettes (Tie) – 6.9%

First Brand that Comes to Mind 
1)Toronto Blue Jays – 19.2%
2)Montreal Canadiens – 18.5%
3)Toronto Maple Leafs – 14.8%
4)Toronto Raptors – 12.3%

Probably unsurprising that the Canadiens came to mind before the Maple Leafs too, since, y'know, it was May. Plus Canadians are practically conditioned to forget about the Leafs after April.

Or maybe the Canadiens simply are the stronger brand right now. But I doubt it. After all, while they may have Subban, they don't have The Phil.

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