A University of Manitoba research team wants to get inside the heads of diehard Winnipeg Jets fans.
Led by associate Prof. Ben Schellenberg of the kinesiology and recreation management faculty, the study aims to glean the insights of about 500 local hockey lovers over the course of the 2021-22 NHL season.
The study will be conducted online, with participants answering three short, anonymous surveys: one in the pre-season, the second in January, and the third in April.
Schellenberg said the goal is to understand the motivations and passions of fans, the good and bad aspects of their experience, and how being a fan affects their lives. All participants are entered into a draw for one of 10 Amazon gift cards.
"We know sports fans can have lots of different experiences by being a fan. Some fans make lots of friends, social connections and as a result experience higher levels of well-being — just happier and healthier because they’re a fan of a team," the researcher said.
"Sometimes, it doesn’t contribute positively to people’s lives. Sometimes, it can actually lead to some bad outcomes like relationship conflict at home or even some fans acting aggressively toward officials or fans of competing teams."
The researchers aim to understand what factors contribute to and possibly predict the best experiences.
"The first step to helping fans make the most of their fan experiences is to understand why some fans experience more adaptive benefits than others," Schellenberg said.
He said he thinks sports fans are a fascinating subject.
"When you support a team, it doesn’t just affect you while the game is being played, it can affect generally how you feel," Schellenberg said.
"The research that I’ve done in the past has focused more on different types of potential motivation and passion people have toward their favourite activities. I kept doing research with sports fans — they’re a highly motivated, highly passionate group of people toward a single activity. I just think you can learn a lot."
One can learn a lot about motivation by studying sports fans, he said.
"I think fans are important, themselves, because so many people are fans, and you can learn more generally peoples’ feelings toward the things they love and how it may affect their lives."
The study is funded by Research Manitoba, a government agency. Once complete, the team will analyze the results and submit them for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.