Hockey players, particularly those playing at the highest competitive level, aren’t typically portrayed as happy. They’re grizzled, battle-hardened, nails-for-breakfast guys and not the happy-go-lucky kids from “The Mighty Ducks” movies. But there have to be some cheerful teams and positions in the National Hockey League (NHL), right? It isn’t a penalty to smile!
We wanted to find the happiest teams and positions. We did this by pulling player photos from ESPN and running them through Microsoft’s Cognitive Services Emotion API; we used them to rank the happiest teams and positions in the NHL based on their appearance. This allowed us to uncover exactly who, in a sport that is perceived as the manliest, doesn’t mind showing he’s the happiest.
North American Happiness
We found the happiest teams in the NHL were located in the United States and Canada (seven of the NHL’s thirty teams are located in Canada). One of the Original Six and winners of six Stanley Cups, the Boston Bruins claimed the title of the happiest team in professional hockey. Even though they haven’t made it to the postseason the past two seasons, the Bostonians kept their smiles in place.
Out of the top five happiest teams, three – including the Bruins – are members of the Original Six, the first six established NHL franchises. The Montreal Canadiens (No. 2) and the New York Rangers (No. 4) each hold a spot on our list; these storied franchises account for 28 Stanley Cup championships. Those represent almost 30% of all championships – no wonder they keep smiling even in down years!
Good in Goal, Happier on the Wing
Breaking down happiness across the different positions, we found those playing at left wing were the most joyful. Rick Nash of the New York Rangers, Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars, and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals are just a few examples of players in the happiest position across the NHL.
What might be more shocking is that those who are playing “the toughest position in sports,” goalies, were the second happiest across all positions. These masked men, wearing pounds of pads and serving as a human shield, aren’t letting the physical and mental abuse of their positions get to them.
Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, and Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins’ are now members of two brotherhoods – goalies, and the NHL’s second happiest group of players.
We see now that being the happiest team in the NHL doesn’t necessarily require a recent victory in the quest for Lord Stanley’s cup. It doesn’t hurt to be a member of the Original Six NHL teams though. We know that goalies might be smiling more than we think underneath their masks but not as much as left-wingers.
Even though you’re most likely not an active player for the Boston Bruins, or Alex Ovechkin, you’d probably be just as happy sporting the best officially licensed NHL merchandise and apparel. Available now at Fanatics.com.