In Canada, hockey is the primary go-to topic in all finance centres (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg), but interest may wane if the teams are doing badly – in which case other Big 4 sports leagues will fill up conversation. In Toronto, people will care about the Blue Jays and Raptors when they are running hot and the NFL is popular as well (fun fact – the Jays, Raptors, Leafs and Toronto FC are all owned in some part by Rogers – either directly or via Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and corporate earnings actually saw a boost the year the Jays went to the ALCS).
Depending on which city you are in, it may be worthwhile to adopt that city’s team for fraternity. Canadian cities are generally homogenous in terms of support, with some pockets of resistance in Toronto due to its role as a hub (Detroit and Vancouver fans) and Calgary as there is a very large University of Alberta alumni base which is heavily pro-Oilers (and Eskimos). People from the prairies will generally care about the CFL (especially Roughrider fans) but it is acceptable to not know anything about the CFL.
Trading floors are increasingly quantitative and this has resulted in a lot of Europeans with strong mathematical backgrounds. They unanimously like to talk about soccer or rugby union, so getting up to speed on those two may be helpful. As televisions are all over the walls, when Euro or the World Cup go on, the floor stops.
In the US, the floor is exponentially more sport crazy and much more diverse.
Baseball holds extra weight – and the conversation is very intelligent with most traders and salespeople having at least a rudimentary understanding of sabremetrics. When I started out, the main rates trader was the biggest New York Mets fan and could probably name every player in the majors and their statistical averages.
One major difference between the US and Canada is the importance of college sports. In Canada, there may be a March Madness bracket started by the odd person who did a Bachelor’s in the States. In the US, college sports has a much wider following and many trading floor hires are ex-Division I athletes. Alumni ranks are stacked with lacrosse players from Bucknell and amateur golfers (we will post a golf article later). Tailgating is also a thing – having been to a Colts and Redskins tailgate, college parties are ostensibly more grandiose.
Generally, the amount of knowledge you need to accumulate is not that deep – but you need to know enough (the rules and the stars) to guide the conversation so that they keep talking and like you because you listen. In case anyone is interested, New Yorkers generally support teams in this order – Yankees Mets Knicks Jets Giants Rangers Islanders Nets Devils.
As New York is much more of a hub than Toronto, allegiances are diverse, so there are no real benefits to jumping on a bandwagon as Americans thrive on confrontation and enjoy banter. A desk may well have someone from St. Louis, New Orleans and Seattle, all of whom will be constantly ribbing each other. After work socials at the bar will also revolve around sports.
If you are in any other relevant financial centre, other football, rugby, cricket and boxing may need to be studied.