“Everyone here has the sense that right
now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future.” – Steve Jobs
The Hockey Zones Winter 2012
edition published an article called “The Minor Hockey Dilemma”. This commentary
revealed that the state of Canadian minor hockey as we know it today may look
quite different in the next decade or so. Hockey Canada’s
membership is around 575,000 registered players, down more than 200,000 from
its peak. The myth is that most Canadian boys play hockey, however, the reality
is that the numbers are falling. Only 15.7%, or 1 in 6.4 boys, actually play
the game in Canada.
If the trend of young males deciding not to play hockey continues, the numbers
are expected to lower to about 360,000 in 2021. On the opposite side, there’s
been a boom in female hockey, but the numbers do not make up for the decline in
male participation. That trend could have a serious impact on Canada’s
international male dominance of the sport in the future.
Canadians, hockey is more than a game; it is a big part of life. No other
country is as passionate about hockey! Everyone has an opinion about the game. So
it’s very difficult for administrators to make progressive changes to the
hockey system in Canada
because hockey is such a big deal and everyone wants to discuss and debate it.
As a continuation
to our previous article, we offer our two cents worth to grow the game in Canada with a 10
point action plan for the betterment of the game.
Barriers to Entry
the majority of lower class, lower middle class, and single income families
typically can not afford to have their children play hockey, the governing
bodies must find ways of lowering the costs of individual player registrations
and hockey equipment.
towns and cities across the country more subsidized or provided at a nominal
fee “Learn to Skate” programs and “Introduction to Hockey” programs need to be
offered to capture more family’s interest and participation.
initiatives like the Comrie’s Sports Equipment Bank, recently launched in
Calgary, need to be created across the country. The Equipment Bank is a not –
for – profit organization. Russell Gillespie, the General Manager of the
Calgary program states “We are trying to breakdown financial barriers between
kids and their chosen sport”. “We encourage anyone…to get in contract with us
to help as many kids as possible…help them play.” For additional information
Minorities and Changing Demographics
Canadian families are having fewer children. According to recent
Health Canada information, the Canadian fertility rate is 1.5 children per
woman aged 15 to 49 which is well below the replacement rate of 2.1. This is
considered among the lowest birth rates in the world.
We are living in an ever changing society where other sports,
digital gadgets, youthful pressures from schools and part – time jobs take precedence
over the game of hockey. With respect to other sports more and more children
have been gravitating to sports such as soccer where the participation costs
for registration, travel and equipment are significantly lower than those for
Declining interest from a changing population. Low birth rates in
Canada are being offset by a steady flow of immigration from non-hockey playing
countries. Statistics Canada data from 2006 states that among recent arrivals
of immigrants, only 32% of their children participate in organized sports
compared to 55% of those of Canadian born parents. Canada will have up to 14.4
million persons belonging to a visible minority group by 2031, more than double
the 5.3 million reported in 2006. The rest of the population, in contrast, is
expected to increase by less than 12 %. Today, in Toronto over 40% of the
population consists of immigrants; in Calgary that number is nearly 30 %.
Conversely, second generation Canadians are far more willing to
put their kids in hockey because even though they may not have played the game
they have been surrounded by it most of their lives. Parents who have
participated in hockey take a more hands on approach with their kids because
they can relate to it and both child and parent share in the enjoyment of the
game. Attracting immigrants to the game is a core component to keeping the
registration numbers up. Minor hockey ads showing ethnic kids and their role
models to promote the game and having fun is a key requirement.
governing hockey bodies need to produce educational and promotional materials
in different languages and put on more hockey seminars to educate people,
especially parents, about the game. Hockey
Canada has looked at technology to translate its promotional literature into 17
different languages. It’s a critical task.
hockey is dying in many small Canadian communities. As more and more families
leave small towns to pursue job opportunities in urban centres, the population
continues to decline and the numbers of kids playing hockey is getting lower
and lower. This requires amalgamation of rural associations to ice a complete
team or teams which results in extended travel and extra associated costs.
These costs need to be subsidized.
Hockey from All Levels of Governments
levels of government must support subsidizing hockey and sports in general. Governments
see the value of keeping kids active. There’s a linkage between activity and
health care. All levels of government need to step up and work together (team
work) to lower costs and make playing hockey more affordable to enable kids to
be more active. Lower ice costs to the individual minor hockey associations can
be directly passed on to individual participants via reduced registration fees
is the philosophy of the Swedish government where it only cost $1,000 to play
hockey from August 1st to June 30th. All kids, rich or poor, are
given an opportunity to excel at the highest level.
Continued Next Week...