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Is hockey's popularity waning in Canada?


CTV.ca News Staff


It may seem as unlikely as Canadians suddenly giving up their Double Double habit, but a new study says hockey's popularity is waning in the Great White North.


Reginald Bibby, a prominent sociologist at the University of Lethbridge and author of "The Emerging Millennials," says hockey is losing popularity in all age groups.


"Contrary to the beliefs of Canadian observers . . . interest in the National Hockey League has actually dropped," he told Canada AM. "It's just not a matter that there is a drop off with teens, we're seeing the same thing with adults."


In his new book, Bibby argues that the nation's DNA is being rewired as immigration and an explosion of new entertainment options for youth is eroding hockey's mass popularity.


"The most important thing for (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman and everyone else to realize is that this is no shocker . . . we simply have so many options when it comes to how we are going to spend our entertainment time."


The percentage of adults who "very" or "fairly" closely watched the NHL dropped from 30 per cent from 36 per cent over the last two decades, the study found.


Among teens, the NHL's popularity dropped a full 10 points between 1992 to 2008 -- from 45 per cent to 35 per cent.


Hockey's drop in popularity among teens was particularly noticeable in Toronto, where only 20 per cent of youths follow hockey. This compares to 34 per cent in Edmonton, 41 per cent in Ottawa, 44 per cent in Vancouver, 45 per cent in Montreal and 48 per cent in Calgary.


While cynics might point to the Maple Leafs' lack of success as a reason, Bibby's book suggests that Toronto large immigration population is a significant factor. He says the NHL needs to reach out, and not just assume new Canadians are going to fall in love with hockey.


"If the NHL is going to competitive in any market . . . it's really going to have to sell the game," he said.


Bibby also suggested the NHL could do a better job of getting teenagers to games, especially a problem in Toronto where Leafs tickets seem as rare and as expensive as diamonds.


However, it is not just hockey that is losing support, all major sports are losing fans to a variety of other interest.


Bibby's findings are published in his book and draw on a nationally representative sample of more than 5,500 teens. The results are accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.



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Maybe if tickets didn't cost an arm and a leg people would be more willing to attend games and get into the sport.

Not to mention the price of the equipment, etc.


When I was a kid my parents always refused to enroll me in hockey because they deemed it was too expensive (and they didn't like they idea of early morning practices, etc).


So I was enrolled in soccer instead, and hated it. I could not identify with a major sports team or any particular players. Not to mention that I was a North American child and not a European/Latin American one, it felt irregular.


A few years later they got the hint and enrolled me in baseball, and I have never stopped playing America's national pastime since then. I could identify with our city's baseball team (just as I could identify with our hockey team). I never understood why so few people played the sport, when the cost to play or attend games was so cheap, and we had a team right here.

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