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. Michael

    Im glad our president is AFRICAN American and not some queen that stays 100 miles away

    March 6, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vicki

      Um, are you implying that the Queen of England is in charge of running Canada? Canada is an independent country with it's own government run by a Prime Minister. Maybe I missed your sarcasm and you were just joking....I hope.

      March 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Mind your own business and please stop trying to make us believe that England don't run ya'll.

      March 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JOE M.

    But the Republicans are telling us that there is no such thing as Global Warming....I guess that's one way to take care of their oil company buddies...

    March 6, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Ride a bicycle, you O'Bama loving pansie

      March 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. observation

    Ever notice how every "sound off", every blog, every feedback on the Internet... seems to follow the same pattern:

    1) People don't read the article
    2) Then make a derogatory comment
    3) Then other people jump in, insulting the people who make derogatory comments by making more derogatory comments about the people who made the first derogatory comments
    4) Ends with everyone insulting everything about everyone else.
    5) No real purpose is served except to vent one's bowels in public.

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

    But when the next ice age comes, and it will, hockey will be the most popular sport in the world. Good for you hockey!! Unless of course we all melt from global warming. That might make playing hockey a little tricky. I don't see many ghosts playing hockey. Wait, there's no such thing as ghosts because there is no afterlife. Oh boy, I think I've said too much.

    March 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BKW

    That's why God invented the indoor rink.

    "Hockey Threatened by Climate Change?"
    Another misleading CNN headline.

    March 6, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      god has never invented anything. It is not real. Humans invented the indoor arena. See it is this logic that allows folks to go on living thinking that we can just do whatever we want to our planet without repercussions. (Because all we have to do is talk to ourselves – I mean pray – and the deity in the sky will magically make everything beteer) A Hundred Years ago there was approx 1.2 millions humans on the planet. Now we have over 7 Million. How could any logical, intelligent human not believe that we are killing our planet? The industrial revolution has not been going on that long (in the grand scheme of the universe) We have to wait to see the true damage that we are doing to this planet.

      March 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Billion, with a B.

      March 6, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • crazyvermont

      @ Jeremy....always some comment on here that reminds me of a comic strip and makes me laugh out loud. You my friend have won the prize:)

      March 6, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Wow, Jeremy. How about you settle down and have a drink...like God intended.

      March 6, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kevin

    Have to laugh. We Canadians have been discouraging the kids from playing on frozen ponds due to the possibility of thin ice. This has nothing to do with climate change but rather a safety factor in that kids want to play hockey year round and if they see ice on a pond in March or April they would still like to lace up the skates and play without realizing that they are in a dangerous zone.
    We have outdoor ice rinks that are easier to maintain, easier to clean, no potential for kids falling through the ice and can be set up for the cost of a hose and water spigot and a couple of hours of someones time.

    March 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      It does have to do with climate change, in that long periods of extremely cold (<-20C) weather tend to make ice thicker and safer. But you are right that it is not entirely climate change, perhaps not even mostly.

      March 6, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. darrell

    What a funny crock all at once. I remember hearing in the sixties/ seventies that we were heading into an ice age. Then y2k, then global warming. Wonder what the next fearmongering trend will be. Forgot about that preacher guy that predicted that the world was going to end last year, twice i think and was wrong both times

    March 6, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sofa King

      Interesting take. What do Larry and the other Darrell think?

      March 6, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      I think Darrel is doing a good job of not being led around by the nose.

      March 6, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      There's a difference between what the media publicises, and what academic literature says. You bought into media hype for the 70s "global cooling" thing, but during that time period, it was still the minority of papers that discussed global cooling, a minority that discussed global warming, and the majority that said "we don't have enough data to track these trends". So, outlets like National Geographic, which are not exactly known for their scientific rigor (They were quick to publish that whole archaeoraptor fiasco, which incidently actually did have part of a real transitional fossil), were happy to latch onto the "new ice age" papers and ignore the vast majority of other papers published in the subject at the time for the sensationalist spin.

      Then came the 80s, when the papers on global cooling fell to a very tiny trickle, while the papers published on global warming increased to a majority, then came the 90s when there was nothing on global cooling anymore, lots on global warming, and a very small amount of papers saying 'still not enough data'. Then came the 2000s, where pretty much no paper says 'not enough data', and all papers say 'global warming' and 'global cooling' became a relic of overzelus popular news sources of the past.

      The science has become more solidified as time went by, not less.

      March 6, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Richard

    What a stupid article. They play hockey indoors. They play in phoenix and florida.

    March 6, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Gannt

    Canada is not alone. North Dakota has been having record heat waves this year. There literally has not been a single weak that snow has lasted. In the off-chance that snow actually falls, it gets melted away within two days.

    March 6, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gannt

      It was a green Christmas, this year.

      March 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • WildMontana

      Our outdoor rinks are already closed. One didn't even open and the other two were pitiful. We didn't go at all this winter. Skiing hasn't been great either. We were in the 60s yesterday.

      March 6, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Talk to the people in Alaska about the mild Winter. See folks, years are not alike every year and various natural phenomenon contribute to shifts in weather patters. La Nina is causing the Colorado Rockies to have a sub-par year after have a massive snowfall last year that broke records. If you really believe the global warming hype we will plunge ourselves in to an ice age anyway when the global ocean conveyor belts stops. No arctic ice, no conveyor belt and a new ice age will start.

      March 6, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. tstorm

    That can't be! The Republicans said there is no such thing as global warming!

    March 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • John in WNY

      Actually what we say is that man-made global warming is a crock.

      Do you know the only time the earth isn't warming? The answer is when it's cooling.

      The computer models they are using have long been discredited, and can't even show where we are today using date from previous years, but yeah let's destroy what's left of our manufacturing base and spend billions of dollars because groups of scientists rely on their man-made global warming claims for continued financial support.

      March 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eastvillage

      All Bull. This year is warm, last was frigid. Ask anyone in eastern Europe about warm winters and they will laugh.

      March 6, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. 4commonsensenow

    We always said someday we would inherit the florida climate.

    March 6, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dean

    Isn't everything threatened by Global Warming? All you can come up w/ is hockey???

    March 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Andreas

    This is hilarious. Keep pushing the tar sand guys!

    March 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mybruinssuck

    Take hockey away from Canada, then what's the point in even having Canada?

    March 6, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Gregg

    How much did Obama pay for these people to come up with this tom foolery?

    March 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
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