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. adrifter

    I'm not going to argue about climate change. All I can tell you is what I see. When I was a kid in eastern Newfoundland, we spent months in the winter playing hockey on a frozen pond near our home. Now, the pond barely even freezes over and is not safe to skate on. Plus, the sea ice from the Arctic used to fill the bay where I lived. Every three years or so. I don't believe the ice has been in the bay for a dozen years. I now live in northern Canada, and the winters have gotten milder here. There is still a long winter, but the temperatures are not so bad as they used to be.

    March 6, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tim W.

    NEWS FLASH........The climate changes, it is in constant change and has been changing sense the first 2 dust bits got stuck together and created this planet ! Nothing and I mean NOTHING will stop change from happening ! Thats the facts .............................

    March 6, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Umm... Tim W, you aren't correct. The climate HAS been changing, but ever-so-slowly until recent times. You might compare prior climate change to a snail crawling, and current climate change to a cheetah. Yes, both are moving, but to pretend the cheetah's speed is the same as a snail's is absurd.

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

    In other news... The world was flat 1000 years ago until someone proved otherwise... Everyone of course knew the world was flat and the idea of taking a boat and sailing around the world was insane! Could never be true.. .till it was true...

    March 6, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Natfka

    wow, what a idiotic article. Ever been to Canada? Or are you sitting in your nice warm office without ever leaving it? There are so many outdoor rinks, and these are not going anywhere anytime soon.

    March 6, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. leeintulsa

    @greg: name one that disagrees. you people keep saying that, but i haven't found one.

    is that what rush said?

    deniers kill me. their defense being the earth naturally does this. and they are right.

    and since it does this naturally, and it's gonna be a few lifetimes before real problems abound, they figure what, me worry? most of *them* think god's coming back soon, anyway, so screw it.

    we have evidence of ice ages. we know what this world is capable of doing.. are you really content to imagine that one day, man will just cease to be? isn't it something worth preparing for? whatever man's affect is or isn't having on it?

    maybe we could find a way to slow it's advance. maybe we could work on finding sources for energy other than oil?

    oh, wait, this isn't about oil. yes, it is. and i've heard there is a finite amount. we are going to need other sources of energy, simply put.

    denying that we need to go green is.. just.. uneducated. arguing against it is arguing for oil dependency. it stifles creativity, because we won't work together. because we wanna play politics. i'm lib on some things, and conserv on others. this doesn't seem like a political thing to me, more like rain.. or rocks.. things that just 'are'.

    it's all a package deal.. we are part of the package. i'd rather stay that way.

    March 6, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jennifer

    so there are these things called roller blades...

    March 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • hockey306

      Here in Canada, talk like that is blasphemy! Friends don't let friends rollerblade.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • eldono

      Oh, no! Dat will nebber happen. If the cold wedder moves nort, then us Canuks will have to move nort too, eh?

      March 7, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    @ BOMBO:
    I never got a grant: I'm too arrogant.
    The only time I applied for one, when I was twenty-something and a cinch to receive it, both politically and in light of what I had already achieved, I wrote this plan for using the money: "I would practice all day and further my career."
    You don't want to apply for anything with me.

    March 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sure You Are

      ... and then you woke up in the trailer park 15 minutes late for your shift at Mickey Ds.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. fernace

    The point here is that very few posters (me included), are scientist & too many seem to believe science is not credible in any area! I tend to trust the experts, because it's pointless to try to have a productive convo w/some1 who thinks all science is "bunk" & nothing we humans do to the earth will have negative reprecussions! Another point is that harmful levels of CO2 have been measured in the atmosphere & that the ozone layer above the Arctic has disappeared & left a gaping hole! This has also been measured & photographed! We don't know how much destruction our involvement has caused or will continue to cause if we don't take action, but to deny all scientific data on this subject is, IMO, voluntary ignorance!!

    March 6, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • DingDong

      Yep. The Bubbas will keep denying it even as temps keep rising and the droughts get worse. It could be 120 degrees in the Winter and they'd still deny it , or say man didn't cause it, or say if he did it might be beneficial (the "who knows" hypothesis) or even if it wasn't beneficial we couldn't do anything about it. Hard to keep up with the climate deniers constantly shifting position.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Greek American

    So what do all these people who disagree with climate change think is happening with all the CO2 in the atmosphere? Are the clouds magically sweeping it clean? Do you at least agree that CO2 output is rising at a very rapid rate? That there are less trees on Earth when compared to 30 years ago? Do you also believe that the world has an infinite amount of oil that will last forever? Some of you just don't make any sense. It's the right wing nut jobs that make this out to be a political thing for some reason. I don't get it.

    March 6, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Superpedant

    Why does CNN change correct spelling of Gretsky's site? Practise = verb Practice = noun

    March 7, 2012 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
    • ready

      Nobody cares, virgin

      March 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dug

    Would have had several thousand feet of ice for them 14,000 years ago before this relentless warming period started. Paleolithic humans were no doubt happy about the melting but today we suffer this fearful loss of hockey!

    March 7, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Gregs Conscience

    Greg. Sounds like you only believe the "science" that agrees with your preformed opinion.

    The cliimate change deniers are the same people who tried to deny the effects of tobacco and lung cancer. Industry shills who've been bankrolled by the corporate interests they serve.

    Meanwhile our ice caps melt before our eyes, plants grow in areas hundreds of miles north where they used to and sea levels are rising. Couldn't tell that to a Republicant who gets their "info" from college drop outs like Rush Limbaugh.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack O'Fall

      Antarctic ice is expanding, sea level rise is slowing (actually below the 10,000 year average now), warming trends have leveled off (according to the satellite temperature records), and most climate models are falling farther out of alignment with actual climate each year.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  13. Are you Kidding Me?

    Faced with a global warming catastrophe we focus on ICE HOCKEY? Seriously?

    Maybe when we're fighting wars about water people will take climate change seriously.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jim

    Since Canadian teams are not eligible to win the Stanley Cup, I don't see the harm. The bigger threat is the expansion of the NBA into more Canadian cities as the ice melts.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. canadachick3

    I spent 5 years living and working in the Arctic Circle and I can tell you first hand that Climate Change IS REAL! The difference between one winter and the next was shocking! The first year I had to wear boots outside and by the last I was wearing sneakers all winter! The summers were ridiculously hot and the natives were geniunely concerned about the changes. Anyone who says it isn't real is ignorant and in denial!

    March 7, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
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