A Canadian icon could face extinction in the coming decades, researchers say.
A study by scientists at McGill and Concordia universities says rising temperatures are reducing the availability of frozen ponds, which eventually could mean the end of outdoor hockey.
The headlines are dire:
"Global warming could spell the end of Canada's outdoor hockey rink," reads one from the National Post.
"Thin ice: Canada's outdoor rinks face meltdown," reports The (Montreal) Gazette.
"Climate change melting backyard hockey rinks," The Record in Waterloo, Ontario, says.
"Outdoor ice hockey could perish in some areas," reads The Spectator in Hamilton, Ontario.
"Outdoor skating rinks threatened by climate change," the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reports.
The men behind the science are Lawrence A. Mysak and Nikolay Damyanov of McGill University and H. Damon Matthews of Concordia University.
They looked at data from 142 meteorological reporting stations across Canada from 1951 to 2005 and came to this conclusion: "We would expect all regions of Canada to see a decreased viability of outdoor skating under continued winter climate warming."
And in the case of southwest Canada, the number of days where outdoor ponds are viable for skating, and, in turn, hockey, could be zero by the middle of the century, the scientists report in a paper published this week in the Institute of Physics journal Environmental Research Letters.
“It’s hard to imagine a Canada without outdoor hockey, but I really worry that this will be a casualty of our continuing to ignore the climate problem and to obstruct international efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions,” Matthews said in a statement.
Mysack hints that the fate of the nation is imperiled.
“The disappearance of outdoor hockey rinks and probably cross-country ski trails is not going to be good for the health of our youth and the leaders of tomorrow, who need all the exercise they can easily get,” he said in the statement.
Canadian media are surely as worried.
"Shorter Canadian winters could well mean no more Wayne Gretzkys," The Record begins its story on the report. Gretzky is a four-time winner of the Stanley Cup as a National Hockey League champion and a nine-time winner of the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.
What did the outdoor hockey rink mean to Gretzky? Read on from the website gretzky.com.
"When he was 6 years old, his father, Walter, built a rink in the family's backyard, and it was there that Wayne skated for hours on end, every day, practi(c)ing his skating, shooting and stickhandling and learning everything about the game from his dad."
Of course, the researchers pretty much stoked that fire.
"Wayne Gretzky learned to skate on a backyard skating rink; our results imply that such opportunities may not available to future generations of Canadian children," their study concluded.
And Matthews, in an interview with The Toronto Star, admits an agenda on what has been a politically divisive issue in Canada and around the world. Current Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is an avid hockey enthusiast.
“It’s certainly a motivation for me in doing the study,” the Star quotes Matthews as saying.
“Canada is lagging behind the rest of the world” in efforts to fight climate change, he also told the paper.
But, at least to some Canadians, the decline of outdoor hockey is old news.
In its article on the report, The Vancouver Sun asks, "Is outdoor skating in Canada doomed to become what it always has been here in Vancouver: non-existent?"
And in a CBC poll on outdoor skating, the No. 1 response to the question "How has your outdoor skating changed in recent years?" is, "A lot. I can't remember the last time we had a proper outdoor rink."
He shoots! He sinks!