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. Hayden71

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

    Too much hot air has been affecting the climate

    March 6, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cannuck Amok

    He shoots....he stinks. I'd also say that ice fishing is a sport that is gonna bite the big one too.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jimmie

    I guess they will have to take up water-polo or something.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. commie

    I'm sick and tired of this. Liberal media has been giving us stuff to fear since I was a kid!! The first I remember was the early ice age that we feared in the early 70"s, then it was oil. If we didn't conserve oil, I wasn't going to be able to drive. Then it was the rain forests and the ozone layer in the 80's. Then it was Y2K and Global warming which morphed into climate change. Really?? When global warming fails, which it will because our great electric cars have to charge and how to we create electricity? With coal and nuclear energy which you liberals want to outlaw because it hurts the enviroment, blah, blah, blah!!! Our weather forcasters can't predict tomorrows weather and you want to predict global warming??

    March 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hayden71

      Hey....this is CNN you know.

      March 6, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NOBO

    normal climate changes..... ever hear of the medieval warm period??? How about the "Little Ice Age". Besides... for this article.... most rinks are indoors now.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. nick

    Wait! Does this mean no more ice fishing? How will Canadians justify spending all day outdoors sitting around drinking beer? Oh right, more golf courses.

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

      I do get a kick out of this article. As if the canadian world ends with no hockey. With the longer summers come hiking, running, tennis, biking & on & on compared to two winter activites. Coming from cold Wisconsin, I will take the warmer winters any day over the cold. The last time I checked, teams from warmer climate USA win the championship on a regular basis so hardly does this mean the end of hockey.

      March 6, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Yes

    what people don't understand is that science is based on theory not fact. They are always changing their theory's. Man made climate change is a farce

    March 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      And what people like you don't understand is that a 'theory' is the highest possible status for an idea in science.
      "General Theory of Relativity"
      "Special Theory of Relativity"
      "Atomic Theory"
      "Quantum Field Theory"
      "Plate Tectonic Theory"
      "Theory of Evolution"

      Now, that climate change exists is well demonstrated fact. That climate change is caused by human activities is also fairly well demonstrated, however the EXTENT to which the enviornment will necessarily be affected by anthropogenic global warming is more hotly debated than the fact that human activities are causing it. Scientists aren't really sure what kind of damage will be caused, there are doomsday predictions, but those are typically more cited by the media than by climate journals.

      Then we have people like you, who because they read sensationalist news articles, say 'well clearly this can't be true' and deny any and all science in the process with the absurd claim that it's 'theory' having no idea what theories in science even are.

      March 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. zevie123

    This is a Great article and further supports the science of global warming. From what I can tell that science is:
    1. if it's too warm- global warming
    2. if it's too cold – global warming
    3. If it's too dry – global warming
    4. if it's too wet- global warming
    5 too many hurricanes- global warming
    6. no hurricanes – global warming
    7. if honey bees mysteriously disappear – global warming

    I wish I had chosen to work in a field like climate science where every question had the same simple answer.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • J. Scott

      You make one heck of a straw man.

      March 6, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      1. if it's too warm- global warming

      – This is likely true, global mean temperatures rise, then it is probably global warming, at least if you take long scale trends. Small scale varyations are harder to model.

      2. if it's too cold – global warming

      Not sure where you get this from. If it's increased snowfall, yes, likely, because evaporation from warmer oceans causes more precipiation in the air, and that precipitation tends to cause more snowfall when it gets cold. That means when it snows, it snows a lot, but other than that, the trend should be for warmer winters. That doesn't mean we won't get cold winters, again, there is a normal variance, but long term trends will show winters getting periodically warmer.

      3. If it's too dry – global warming

      Again, I'm not sure this is really true, I'm sure this can be the case in local settings, or in inland enviornments, but near the ocean you'd expect more moisture, simply because of the warmer oceans.

      4. if it's too wet- global warming

      See above.

      5 too many hurricanes- global warming

      Incidently, I believe that there are a number of studies published on global warming having a possible decrease on the number of hurricanes, but rather an increase in the severity of hurricanes. I'm not sure how it causes a decrease, apparently it has to do with making it more difficult for the weather patterns to form, but once a hurricane does form, because they are fed by hot water, again, you get more severe ones because the oceans are warming. (Really, 'global warming' should be renamed 'ocean warming' because ocean warming tends to be the most serious effect)

      6. no hurricanes – global warming

      Also see above.

      7. if honey bees mysteriously disappear – global warming

      I've never seen a single climate scientist, EVER, who claims this. We're still not sure why it's happening, but it doesn't seem linked to global warming at all.

      "I wish I had chosen to work in a field like climate science where every question had the same simple answer."
      Only if you're too lazy to ever read papers on the subject, which evidently, you are.

      March 6, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      "too cold"
      If you read that article, it's talking about SNOWFALL, which as I mentioned, is naturally expected to increase due to warmer ocean temperatures, if you read the article, it specifically is talking about these problems coming about due to warmer oceanic waters.

      "too dry"
      I find it annoying that the blog you linked to didn't actually explain how global warming would cause drought in the amazon, and I'm a bit too lazy/dealing with other things to go through real doc-mentation to find actual peer reviewed articles that discuss that phenomenon.

      "more rain"
      Well of course this is attributed to global warming, for the exact reason I stated, and it's confirmed also by your article.

      "Hurricane frequency"
      This is the really interesting tidbit, mostly because it's one of the most difficult things to predict. As I mentioned, both of your links make the consistant 'hurricane intensity will increase' because warming oceans create more intense hurricanes, since hurricanes gain strength by passing over warmer water. But the issue about 'does warming water create more hurricanes' is a bit more up for debate, and there is science coming down on both sides of the issue.
      What's even more relevant is the fact that both of your sources on hurricane frequency actually cite real peer reviewed studies (unlike EVERY other link you posted, they're the only two that really discuss, well, science).

      The 'hurricane frequency' issue is up for grabs, and as I mentioned, I was already aware of studies coming out to say that hurricanes could decrease, and I also knew that there were studies to say that hurricane numbers could increase. We don't really know that much about hurricanes, and gathering data on them is profoundly difficult (after all, do you want to take data in the middle of a hurricane?) so scientists are forced to present compeating models on the issue.

      It's up to debate for the number of the hurricanes, but as to the sevarity, we know pretty well that warmer oceans cause more severe hurricanes, and so far, the data has been confirming that.

      Finally about your bee thing... I didn't see a single link to an even remotely credible article in there, so really, I don't know where the hell they pulled that out from.

      March 6, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • zevie123

      @andrew I appreciate the intelligence of your posts and you clearly have deep understanding of the subject and can support your arguments. I am a reasonable person who can accept different points of view, but I remain unconvinced at this time. I hope, for the sake of all of us, I am right.

      March 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Yes

    only fanatics believe in global warming. 99 percent of al gore's movie has been proven false. see a fool look in the mirror

    March 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ernesto

    more Soccer then!!!

    March 6, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sean

    Are these the same people that told us we would have "Ice Free Summers" in the arctic by 2010?

    March 6, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. SameNtheUS

    If it really is the national game then why wouldn't they pay to build indoor rinks? This article assumes that at the first sign of adversity the Canadians will abandon hockey, and I would guess the opposite. Hockey will flurish and the economic activity increase as a thousand ice rinks are built, staffed, maintained, etc. What an opportunity for a community to gain a facility that has multiple uses and can serve as a community center.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vicki

      Canada already has thousands of indoor ice rinks and most hockey is played indoors. This article is stupid.

      March 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David

    More alarmist junk from people with a stake in the climate change industry. You got your headline. Congrats. Go away.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. paul

    just have them take up surfing

    March 6, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Yes

    i can't spell you believe in global warming. Who is the idiot

    March 6, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
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