Personality is one of those underrated things in sports that has a big impact in the locker room and with the fans. It's not just team chemistry that's affected, but also fan perception. It's easier to cheer for someone nice than someone loathsome.
Talent plays some part in this, but not much. How many enforcers are often the fan favorite in hockey? These days, more of them can do other things besides fight, but even a few years ago when they just had one job to do, they were still loved. Obviously, that's not a talent issue.
Zenon Konopka, a guy who has been known to throw a punch or two in his career, is adored by the fans of his team, the New York Islanders. Tampa Bay Lightning fans still miss this guy, too. He's great at faceoffs and fighting, and that's about it. But his obvious dedication to his teammates is what people love most about him.
There are a number of people who can completely disregard personality and just appreciate ability, but they're few and far between. For the majority of fans, personality plays a big part in why they like specific players, or why they don't.
For instance, after the Skill Competition last weekend, how many people now have a favorable opinion in regards to P.K. Subban? And probably because he was trying to be cute and put on Jeff Skinner's jersey to get into the good graces of the Carolina crowd, not his skillfull showing. Skinner himself is adored by the Carolina fans for just being so honest and so real. Or how about when Marc-Andre Fleury started doing jumping jacks while Alex Ovechkin came in to shoot on him? That was pretty funny as well, and I'm sure that earned Fleury some additional fans.
One of the more polarizing players in the league is Mr. Personality himself, Alex Ovechkin. Many people love him for his sense of humor and his exuberance. And others don't care for him because he comes off as arrogant and mean. But regardless, you know who he is and that he has a personality.
On the flip side of things, Sidney Crosby, who, particularly when he first got into the league, publicly had all of the personality of dry toast. It was easy to like the talent and ability, but not so much the person. It wasn't because he was bland -- he's loosened up a lot since his rookie year -- but because he was almost mechanical. Now that he's been found to be human, he's much more likeable.
Sean Avery is another interesting character study. He's not well-liked by fans because he's considered a jerk, however, just as many people like nice guys, some also like jerks. So he has quite a few fans as well.
Look at the most popular players in the league, and you're likely to find the most likeable ones as well. Of course, some on-ice incidents have colored people's perceptions, as is the case with Todd Bertuzzi. But for the most part, people seem to like those players who are perceived as fun, happy, and just genuinely good people.
Fortunately, hockey has a lot of those types, which is why hockey fans always say that the players are so awesome.