What is it about the L.A. Kings or New Jersey Devils that has Canadians so interested in this year's NHL playoffs?

According to a new study on the NHL's fan base, Canadians are more engaged with this year’s playoffs than they were last year, despite the lack of a Canadian team in the finals.

The study, which was based in part on focus groups held in Toronto until last week, asked respondents if they were bigger fans of the NHL this year than last, and found overall engagement to be 11 per cent higher this year than last.

Among other potentially surprising findings in the study from Northstar Research Partners is that Canadian men are likelier than women to think hockey is “too aggressive.” While 30 per cent of men say the sport is too prone to violence, only 17 per cent of women feel the same way, the study found.

The research, designed to help advertisers target their products better for NHL audiences, found Canadians associated certain brands with the NHL, with the dominant brand being Tim Hortons. Forty-six per cent identified the coffee and donuts chain with the NHL.

PHOTOS: THE BRANDS CANADIANS ASSOCIATE MOST WITH THE NHL

Though young men are the most likely to watch the NHL playoffs, they are the least engaged with advertising during games, the study found, likely because they are watching the game socially.

“Brands can still target this audience outside of the game, because they are highly engaged and active on social media when it comes to hockey and the NHL,” the study reported.

But women make up nearly as large a part of the hockey audience as men. The study found women are almost as likely (82 per cent) to follow the NHL as men (87 per cent).

Though where they want to watch it differs. While men prefer to see games on TSN (53 per cent), women prefer to watch it on CBC (37 per cent).

And while watching hockey is a social activity for younger men, it’s a more lonely activity for older men, who watch the game alone abut 54 per cent of the time. Meanwhile, 55 per cent of women watch hockey as a way to bond with family.

“Hockey is the most gender equal sport in Canada,” the study concludes.

And now for the really important stat: Which team do Canadians want to see win? According to the study, 48 per cent want the Kings to win (Gretzky nostalgia?), while 32 per cent are rooting for the Devils, and the rest don't care either way.

In addition to the focus groups, Northstar conducted a survey of 600 representative Canadians.

THE BRANDS CANADIANS ASSOCIATE THE MOST WITH THE NHL

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  • 4. McDonald's (20 per cent)

    Source: <a href="http://www.nsresearch.com/" target="_hplink">Northstar Research Partners</a>

  • 4. Canadian Tire (23 per cent)

    Source: <a href="http://www.nsresearch.com/" target="_hplink">Northstar Research Partners</a>

  • 2. Molson (27 per cent)

    Source: <a href="http://www.nsresearch.com/" target="_hplink">Northstar Research Partners</a>

  • 1. Tim Hortons (43 per cent)

    Source: <a href="http://www.nsresearch.com/" target="_hplink">Northstar Research Partners</a>

CORRECTION: Northstar Research Partners says it wrongly stated that 54 per cent of older men watch hockey games alone. Rather, older men watch games alone 54 per cent of the time. The article has been edited to reflect that fact.