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

"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. Michael

    If President Obama would just make it start raining in Canada, then they would have more water to freeze. He shouldn't be worried about Ackmadenejad or however you spell it. He needs to hurry up with his March Madness picks so i will know what teams to pick for my brackets. Just please give him a chance : he is working on global warming right now....It hasnt even been to hot this winter. THANK YOU MR. PRESIDENT!!!

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

    Tell that to the Europeans who are freezing their asses off.

    March 6, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. NorCalMojo

    Do they really think warm weather will scare Canadians? They may not admit it out loud, but most would gladly trade baseball for hockey if it meant a few more weeks of warm weather.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Floyd

      you have a point. growing up we always had a rink in our yard that my dad made for us every year. now in mid-40's, I can't keep a rink for my kids more than a couple days as we get a cold snap maybe for a few days in a row then it melts. It is different now, at least here in around Toronto. Problem really is that I will be long dead and buried before year round beaching and January tans. What a drag.

      March 6, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dennis

    Read Michael Crichton's "State of Fear". This article is total fiction.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. john

    “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 youth cannot exercise outdoors in warm weather? It seems to me that warmer weather would benefit the exercise practices of poorer kids who cannot afford skates and other hockey equipment.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John

    Thats what Canada gets for given us Justin Beiber.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hayden71

      You're kidding???

      I thought this may have been payback for Celine Dionne

      March 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • damniel

      This is what Canada gets for being sucky.

      March 6, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jamie

    I live in the snow belt of ontario. Last year we had our worst winter in almost 50 years and record snowfalls. Our backyard rink was one of the best we ever had

    March 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Old Time Hockey

      I would D you up son on your own ice. After some brutal shinny I would make you paint my initials at center ice. : )

      March 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Old Time Hockey

    Here's a thought. Just head to the rink. Problem solved. Puckin' numskulls.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jean

      Outdoor rinks in people's own yards or on rural dugouts and ponds used to be part of Canadian culture. There's no doubt that has changed. Of course people with the funds and access to indoor rinks can use them, and do. The study is talking about a changing way of life. So your name calling misses the point. Perhaps you should read the link about social media and people's egotistical wish to immediately and loudly express their opinion; that article recommends self-control.

      March 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • JuneCleaversBeaver

      But what about ice fishing???? Oh the humanity!!!!!!!!!

      March 6, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clack Kent

      Yeah that ice will just make itself, with no energy required. Try wearing a helmet next time you play hockey so you don't get so many brain injuries. Or is that not Old Time Hockey enough for you?

      March 6, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. BOB

    Its a good thing that global warming is BS

    March 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hayden71's real!

      There been enough hot air coming out of the mouths of these scientists to cause any environment to warm up

      March 6, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • teleo9

      Yeah but you know what else? When you're sitting on your patio with a drink in the middle of summer, your ice cubes are going to be melting at a faster rate. Good luck trying to cool your drink when global warming hits us full scale.

      March 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hayden71

      uh oh...Now I'm concerned

      March 6, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clack Kent

      Keep denying it. You'll be dead by the time it really matters.

      March 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. j

    um, hockey is played indoors today. What a failure this article is.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clack Kent

      What a failure your ignorance is.

      March 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jim

    Who plays hockey outdoors anymore anyway. Gretzky did because there werent many indoor rinks. Now they are all over the place, even in places too warm for outdoor ice. Creates jobs, too.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • J.C.

      Don't throw cold water on our pity parade, geez...

      March 6, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Michael

    Those Canadians need to quit whining about a sport nobody cares about and start learning to play soccer

    March 6, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sofa King

      Canada's not gay enough to play soccer.

      March 6, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Most of America isn't pansy enough to play soccer either. Hockey is a big sport in most of the educated parts of the country.

      March 6, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Grant

    Science has decided. The only real issue left is that the fossil fuel industries are paying big bucks to politicians to lobby for them to the public. And people believe politicians for some reason, as though they are puppets of the purse strings will get them elected.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sofa King

      Did you notice 2 things about your link? 1- It is wikipedia, anybody can post anything there. 2- It is labeled as "opinion" in the address.

      March 6, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    I need a grant to do my own research on obesity in Canada, but I have to say that these Canadians write in English very well.
    They speak French up there, too.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      If the grant is budgeted for expensive desserts for test subjects, I'll help you file the papers.

      March 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hayden71

    I agree that global warming is caused by humans...have you heard any Obama speeches lately?

    temperatures have been changing due to plenty of hot air

    March 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
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