In the last year or two, Facebook "Like" buttons have been slapped on just about everything not smeared with Crisco. You can "like" pet articles, mp3's, comments, replies to comments, replies to replies to comments, BTN articles, non-profit organizations, profit organizations, and Mario Van Peebles. You can like movies, pudding, Sisqo, Bing Crosby, Gore-Tex, Fun Dip, and toothbrushes. You can also like hockey players.
Yahoo Sports has a page for every player on an NHL roster (and some who aren't); just so happens they also include a "Like" button that keeps track of how many people like a particular player. Well hell, that's countable!
In this first part, I just want to discuss some of the things this can tell us, and have a preliminary look at the leaders in the statistic. Facebook has only recently opened itself to older demographics, and really it still should be viewed as something used more readily by the 18-35 year old crowd than the remaining population. This also happens to be a coveted demographic for television and the Internet, among other devices that derive profitability from traffic numbers. Players who are liked by this group are catching the right eyes for promotional purposes, and as you'll see (and probably already know) you don't necessarily have to be the best player in the league to get the attention.
This go-around, we're going to look at the league leaders list, as well as the top player for each team. We'll parse some more things a bit later.
The league leaders...
It was initially going to be a Top 25 list, but Fleury and Lidstrom had to tie, so there you go. It's worth mentioning at this point that a "Like" is not permanent; the "liker" (if there's such a thing) can "unlike" a person. So to freeze this data at this point in time to come around to it again in a year would be an interesting exercise. Also, a person can like as many people as they want on a team.
While a bit shocked to see Avery above Crosby, it speaks quite a bit to how powerful a pop culture vehicle NYC can be...apparently strong enough to vault Wolski up onto this list. Skinner is also a bit of a surprise, but he also got a lot of good exposure during the All-Star Game. It's just as interesting for the names not up here, such as Martin Brodeur.
The team leaders...
Anaheim: Teemu Selanne - 47
Atlanta: Dustin Byfuglien - 60
Boston: Tim Thomas - 67
Buffalo: Ryan Miller - 38
Calgary: Jarome Iginla - 25
Carolina: Jeff Skinner - 60
Chicago: Patrick Sharp - 84
Columbus: Rick Nash - 25
Colorado: Matt Duchene - 25
Dallas: Jamie Benn, Alex Goligoski - 23
Detroit: Pavel Datsyuk - 54
Edmonton: Taylor Hall - 29
Florida: Marty Reasoner - 26
Los Angeles: Anze Kopitar - 28
Minnesota: Martin Havlat - 18
Montreal: P.K. Subban - 53
New Jersey: Ilya Kovalchuk - 55
Nashville: Mike Fisher - 28
New York (I): Doug Weight - 19
New York (R): Sean Avery - 163
Ottawa: Erik Karlsson - 14
Philadelphia: Claude Giroux - 75
Phoenix: Ilya Bryzgalov - 21
Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby - 157
San Jose: Dany Heatley - 46
St. Louis: Jaroslav Halak - 63
Tampa Bay: Steven Stamkos - 122
Toronto: Phil Kessel - 27
Vancouver: Roberto Luongo - 36
Washington: Alex Ovechkin - 112
Conclusions, if I may: a.) these are the coolest kids in school, b.) Goligoski never struck me as the coolest kid in school, c.) Reasoner must have a lot of family members. More in later installments.
Note: I took the suggestion in the comments and ran this same study with NHL.com "Like" figures, which you can see here.