John Tavares's decision to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs this past summer didn't just make a splash in the NHL free-agency market, it made one online too.
Tavares posted a photo of himself as a child, sleeping under a Maple Leafs duvet, his head resting on pillows with the team's logo with the caption "Not everyday you can live a childhood dream" early in the afternoon of July 1, when NHL free agency opened. That tweet served as the official announcement of his homecoming and has since been retweeted more than 31,000 times with over 109,000 likes.
Twitter released data on Wednesday revealing that it was the most mentioned NHL moment in Canada in the past 12 months and helped Tavares become the most followed Canadian player in the league, surpassing defenceman P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators.
"July 1st is always a big day for conversation, free-agent signings, people love to chime in on that," said Christopher Doyle, head of sports at Twitter Canada. "The way Tavares represented himself in the Twitter conversation with an amazing tweet, referencing his childhood dream coming true, that was an outstanding tweet."
According to Doyle there are other factors that make NHL free agency — on July 1 every summer — the hottest day of the year for discussion among the 90 per cent of Canadian Twitter users who consider themselves hockey fans. The fact that it's a national holiday means that people have the time to engage. Also, potentially any NHL team could be involved and that gives it broad appeal.
In addition to the Tavares deal, Tomas Plekanec re-signing with the Montreal Canadiens, Paul Stastny leaving the Winnipeg Jets for the Vegas Golden Knights and James van Riemsdyk leaving Toronto for the Philadelphia Flyers were also hot topics on July 1.
The second most mentioned moment of the past year was the Jets' 5-1 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinal on May 10. Although Winnipeg is the smallest Canadian market to have an NHL franchise, Jets fans are some of the most vocal online.
"We've noticed that overall, (Winnipeg) is a pretty digital savvy market in general," said Doyle. "The two things that I always talk about in terms of influencing these metrics are on-ice performance and how this specific handle interacts with the fanbase.
"The Jets have always been a really good team on Twitter. They've always provided especially a lot of video content and have been engaging that way."
Rounding out the top five Canadian NHL moments were Daniel and Henrik Sedin's final game in the NHL as their Vancouver Canucks lost to the Edmonton Oilers in a shootout on April 8, the opening round of the NHL draft on June 22, and the opening of the 2017-18 season on Oct. 4, 2017.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press