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. Whome

    Go to Torbay web cam and you'll see global warming.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BOMBO ©

    You can certainly show trends that prove an overall warming trend over the past few years, but it is RECKLESS to say conclusively that it is due to human industrial activity. The idea is that if we clean up our act, everything will be fine. Well, we don't have enough data, and we're never going to get enough data, to prove that conclusively. I am all for reducing our burning of fossil fuels, not just due to CO2 generation, but a number of other factors. But recognize that we might do everything that the environmentalists want us to do, and it still might not make a difference.

    Our real focus needs to be to adapt. How can we feed 7 billion people if we have complete crop failure in the Northern Hemisphere one year, for example. Or can we move hundreds of millions of people inland if the ice caps melt. No research is being done on that. We are literally screwed as a civilization if this is a natural trend, and it worsens.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Byrd

    It's more fun watching Canadians swat mosquitoes anyway.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Brian

    Is it true. Only time will tell. Is it possible. It's happened before. We'd be stupid to just ignore the possibilty. I know here in canada, the weather has been noticably changing for at least 7 yrs. Maybe it's just a temporary cycle or maybe all the radio waves, cell phones etc..., is heating up our atmosphere. All I know, is that we have to be informed and responsible enough to find out why the climate is changing, as it is our children who could suffer because of our ignorance.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mike

    I used to make ice rinks in my backyard in the 70's in Windsor ontario. You'd be lucky to get one for a week now. This is't something new, it's been like that for years.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      I remember in the 70s, the talk was about mankind setting off a new ice age. Global temperatures were falling, they said – and they were right. It was all supposed to be due to particulate matter we were putting into the atmosphere burning fossile fuels. Now, the talk is all about global warming, because we are putting CO2 into the upper atmosphere, again by burning those same fossil fuels. The truth is, it actually is a bad idea to keep burning fossil fuels for energy BUT we don't really know what effect, if any, it has on our climate.

      March 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. HockeyMan

    LMAO total nonsense.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      Absolute nonsense!

      Dire these climate change freaks love that word!!!

      March 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bregs

    They never said it was man-made warming, tool. They just said warming, which, by the way, is what you Darwin-denying fools say is happening naturally. So, both sides agree there is warming, it's just those that suck on the coroporate teet refuse to believe any corp could possibly do any harm.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      Hmm strange I don't deny Darwin, just deny these scientists have a single clue of what there speculating on. They dont know what the weather will be next week but seem to be able to predict the end of Hokey because in a few years no more ice....I find that hilarious.

      March 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luigi

      Greg, how much crediblity do you think I should give you when you confuse meteoroligists with climatologists?

      Climatgologists aren't trying to predict the weather next week? Why do you take a shot at climatolologists due to a problem you are having with the ability meteorologists?

      March 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joe

    Odd, I live in Canada and I haven't seen any trends in warming. We still have record cold days, record warm days – like we always have. Long term there may be issues but really – to the man on the ground – we just don't see it. They tell us about it being warmer in the far north, but not many people live up there. In the population centers I don't see any changes in my 50 years.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hayden71

      I couldn't agree more. These climate wackos are using what they know is dear to the hearts of Canadians to instill fear that they need to sign into some kind of Kyoto nonsense. As far as I'm concerned it business as usual with winter here.

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

    I knew this article would bring out the global warming scoffers. Here's a little truth sandwich. The global climate has always fluctuated, and most people know it. The high hill I live on was formed by glaciers in the last ice age. What scientists are worried about is the speed of this global warming. Using core samples from the earth's poles, they see that our planet has never warmed this fast. That raises concerns about bizarre weather patterns and colossal storms, not to mention massive crop damage all over the world.
    The annual ice fishing derby at Sebago Lake in Maine was cancelled this year. It's very popular among fishermen, with substantial prizes. The skiing industry is suffering in New England. What would normally take centuries is happening in decades. But don't worry. Go back to your radio.

    March 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amused

      "they see that our planet has never warmed this fast" Who is "they" and where did you read this? please state your source!
      I am not a global warming denier, but many people have been making things up that have no basis in fact. If this is a fact, where can I confirm this claim?

      March 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      Well lets just freak out and run in circles screaming, If your as old as me you can remember cycles of warmer and colder winters, its called weather.

      March 6, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luigi

      I agree with Amused. Please cite your source.

      March 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • longtooth

      Al Gore wrote a book called "An Inconvenient Truth". But, don't read his book, just continue laughing!

      March 6, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vicki

      I live in Alberta and my husband goes ice fishing every weekend. He has never seen so much ice on the lakes here as he has this year. So much that he almost needs to buy an extension for his auger to drill the holes. And the ski hills in the Rockies are seeing some of the best skiing conditions in years. So you are having a season with below average ice conditions and we are having a season with above average ice conditions. What's to be alarmed about? Just seems like natural climate changes to me.

      March 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • I live in Alberta too Vicki

      And I like to stay in town on weekends. Need some company?

      March 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Talkic Social

    So let's build more community centers and indoor rinks...

    March 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mac11

    For all those deniers, here is just one more piece of proof. And its bad enough all the weird weather hasn't gotten through to these id10ts yet. Gobal warming is here. WAKE UP. Quit denying facts.

    March 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. VOTE OUT HUSSAIN!!

    To all who are worried, this earth was here for billions of years before man, and will be here for billions of years after man is gone.

    March 6, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. soliton

    The real question is "How will this affect curling?".

    March 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cornbread

      Thank you!! Finally a reasoned voice in all of this!

      March 6, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Scott

    I would be upset of my donation or God forbide, university funding ............ went for a study that was this meaningless and this unhelpful to society. The scientists must be ex-hocky players who took one to many shots to the celebral temple.

    March 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      No. They are on the climate change bandwagon and are trying to get the attention of the average Canadian sports nut. As I haven't seen the Canadian sports media jump on this, I would say – fail.

      March 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. m

    Global warming is fact, ice levels and raising water levels are measurabel signs that it is happening. The issue is how much of it is caused by man and how much is natural patterns. The problem we see is that with thinning ice caps more moisture is added to the global pool. It causes major shifts in weather patterns creating more severe storms and more severe droughts. Building along beach dunes is an example of the disruption of normal weather patterns that protect those natural barriers.

    The question becomes what will mankind do to minimize the impact to our planet. The change will continue,the only question is how much will mankind accelerate the problem.

    PS – For those that say build more ice rinks, not everyone has the ability to bay skating fees. The same as many kids in the cities can afford to go to a gym to play basketball, football, etc

    March 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
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