Study claims possible end to Canada's outdoor pastime
Young players listen to a coach's instructions in North Bay, Ontario, during the 1953 filming of the documentary "Here's Hockey."
March 6th, 2012
11:18 AM ET

Study claims possible end to Canada's outdoor pastime

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!

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Filed under: Canada • Hockey • Sports
soundoff (267 Responses)
  1. Andrew

    Funny how the people who argue that climate change is real and caused by men are scientists, and most of the people who dispute it are conservative politicians. I wonder who I should believe?

    March 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Betty

      And since they label themselves as "conservative," one would think that to conserve our habitat, we would err on the safe side, rather than deny soemthing that could possibly cause our extinction.

      Alas, 'conservative' equals selfishness and greed.

      PS. Where is this "liberal" media I keep hearing about? CNN is the closest to impartial that I have found, aside from Bloomberg Businessweek.

      March 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Absolutely. I don't think the GOP has had a real conservationist since Teddy Roosevelt, and of course they hate him now because he believed that corporations shouldn't be able to rule the world

      March 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      cause our extinction, that's hilarious,

      March 6, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. EJ

    The guy has to be a troll.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cecil

    All I can say is myself and the ice fisherman I depend on for income from this winter are SOL. Virtually no ice to safely stand on this winter in northern Indiana. We have been in a warming trend the last 20 years with some exceptions. Is Global warming real? You bet. Is it entirely ma made; don't know. But I will say I'd rather look at scientific data than listen to people like Rush Limbaugh that flunked out of college.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      no Ice my gosh, those poor fishermen are going to have to get a Boat!!!! You know a Boat, something that flats on the water.

      March 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack O'Fall

      Too bad you don't live in Europe or Asia. They have been freezing their tushies off this winter. You would have had a great season selling to the frozen fisherman.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. Skeptically Warmer

    Well, maybe they can play baseball... Are Canadian kids too lazy to go outside and do something else? Are their parents too dull to have them do something else outside? Terrible article. The Earth is warming, which it has done cyclically for hundreds of thousands of years. My only skepticism is how much man has caused and how much is a natural process.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Betty

      Well, it certainly couldn't be from your CAR, because that runs on God's magical rays.

      March 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      No they aren't evidently, because Canadian kids are far obese on average than US children.

      March 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      The OECD 2011 report puts Canada third, behind Italy and the USA. I know that because I just looked it up. Wonderful thing, this internet. What's your source, Bubba? It couldn't be that some guy named "Bubba" just pulled something out of his ass with no evidence to back it up, couild it?

      March 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. kd

    When I was a kid in the late 60s and early 70s we could skate on the ponds and creeks in our neighborhood for many, many weeks during the winter. This was in St. Louis! No more. It was a ton of fun and most kids had a pair of skates and a cheap wooden hockey stick. Somebody always had a puck and the 'goals' were usually between a couple of stick branches or somebody's cast-off coat or jacket (you worked up some heat skating around, you know). Great times. Sad that so many kids might not get to do this anymore.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      The scientist that believe the warming we experienced in the mid 90ties to about 2008 was caused by my gosh...the Sun, That its now in a cooling cycle that will in a few years bring us right back where we were in the 70ties. But who knew, Who would ever think the sun actually effects the temperature of the earth.

      March 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sick n tired

    If it doesn't impact Football no one will care. The brainless football fanatics in the U.S. don't care about hockey yet alone the environment. No one will care until the water is at their door step.....then it will be chaos. Most right wingers in the U.S. still do not beleive we are facing a climate change but they certainly beleive god will protect them. It's amazing to see such ignorance. They beleive in sky faries, not science.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Whome

      Keep drinking the cool aid.

      March 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • fail MSM

      There's a slight deviation in the earth's magnetic field moving the magnetic north into Siberia.
      That said, even a small shift could cause the freezing conditions in Eurasia while creating warmer conditions in Canada and the states. Just sayin.

      March 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Climate change is real. Man made global warming is a hoax. The Earth has been cooling and warming for centuries, long before man was driving cars, burning fossil fuels, and sending hydrocarbons into the air. How does Al Gore explain that? The data shows that the Earth is in a warming cycle. However, it is pure speculation that humans are causing it. Wake up, people. Al Gore and his environmental nazis stand to make trillions of dollars with their green initiatives. Being environmentally conscious is a good thing, but let's not take it overboard.

      March 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • BRussell

      Well, I love to swim at the beach!!! Now I won't have to drive so far to get there eh!!

      March 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • BRussell

      spoken like a true socialist!!! You must be from the Quebec province! Well this brainless American as you say, will never bow to a BRITISH MONARCH!!!

      March 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Whome

    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha from what I have witnessed this year it has been one of the coldest and snowiest. Call someone in Sturgen Falls or North Bay and ask them about global warming.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      I don't think you understand how science works

      March 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      It's really variable. Up until the last couple of weeks, we've had very little snow in Edmonton. There were a couple of cold stretches, but in general it's been very mild here.

      March 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Double R

      I'm from Canada and if this has been the coldest, I'm ok with it. There's been nothing to speak of as far as snow or cold.

      March 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • sick n tired

      That may be the case in your area but from what I have seen this "winter" we are in serious trouble. We haven't even had a winter, the temps have been spring of fall like all "winter". This makes me think of the religious stance people take when you tell them you do not believe in a "god". They say " It wouldn't hurt you to think there was a god" and they are correct. I would say the same to them in regards to climate change. It won't hurt to believe the science but it could be catastrophic to everyone on the planet not to......

      March 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mork

      they told us it would be the coldest winter in 50 years, but its actually been even more mild than usual. My cherry tree blossomed two weeks ago. Hello from Victoria BC suckas!

      March 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • diva

      Are you kidding me? Talk to people outside of Ontario and you'll really see global warming. We've had the warmest winter on record in Manitoba.

      March 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. SuperD

    Man Made Global Warming is a hoax intended to give Liberals and Enviro-Nazi's a chance to make money on the pretense (and very very unproven one at that) that the earth is warming.

    If you believe this utter garbage, you probably also think Obama is a good president.

    As you Liberals like to say "Can't fix Stupid" The jokes on you arrogant fools.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • sick n tired

      Let me guess, you are a devout, hypocrital christian...... Open your Bible and close your mind.......

      March 6, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • itstrue

      Straight from the files of Rush Limbaugh. Right-wingers DO NOT THINK. They like to play the robot, being fed lines by gas bags so they feel like they can articulate.

      March 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. fernace

    I agree that the Earth will survive our garbage, air & water poisoning! The problem is the Human Race will not! We will render ourselves extinct because of not taking our part in global climate change seriously! We can take the issue seriously & do something about it & thereby saving our species, or we can call it "bunk" & "pseudo-science", ignore it, play Russian Roulette & see what happens!!

    March 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. sick n tired

    So sad to see how we are destroying our planet and the only thing people are concerned about is their ability to play hockey! Typical stupid humans.... We will have much more dire things to worry about than hockey. Like basic human survival.....

    March 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steve

    Go to an Natural History Museum and visit the exhibit on the Ice Age. You'll "discover" the Earth has been warming for 16,000 years. As for hockey being threatened by "global warming", I'm still rolling on the floor laughing – The professor's funding must be threatened and he's desperate for attention.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • TwM

      Indeed. We have stretches of colder than normal weather then we have stretches of warmer than normal weather. Has been happening for THOUSANDS of years. It is called cycles and we have been trending warmer for a few hundred years.

      March 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jamie

    "He shoots. He Sinks."??? You clearly do not understand how important hockey is to Canadians. I'm from Long Island and even I... they will find a way to make it work. Canadians will now let hockey give way to changing weather conditions. Lame ending to the article Brad.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Samir Orr

    Too bad skating outdoors never helped Gretzky to learn how to play defense!

    March 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      ...or take a hit without crying to the ref.

      March 6, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mork

    In 1983 I could still play hockey for a few months on the local pond.. as of about 15 years ago that was no longer an option, as the pond never froze thick enough again.Vancouver Island.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mike

    Best part of the article is that it didn't include any actual figures at all from the "study" just the propaganda (not saying global warming isn't real but saying there wont be another Gretzky is pure hype) which means these aren't real scientists. A real study doesn't play with emotion it states actual facts, of which most temperature changes show degrees in the .1-.5 degrees per decade which isn't enough to impact outdoor hockey any time in the near future. Anyone talking about this particular winter needs to realize weather does not equal climate so you can't be that simplistic either saying its the coldest or warmest winter you have witnessed.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
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