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Hockey riding a slippery slope


Hockey is losing steam in Canada, and a surge in the minority population could be one of the reasons why. In 2006, a report by Solutions Research Group analysis of Statistics Canada found that Canada's visible minority population will grow by over 70 per cent by 2017. That same group also found that basketball is the leading sport among fast-growing visible minority groups at 37 per cent, while soccer follows at 36 per cent, and hockey is third at 22 per cent. In fact, hockey has seen a decline in participants, while soccer participation rises. Statistics Canada numbers show that youth who grow up in high-income families are more prone to play sports. With families dealing with a tough economy, where saving money is the number one priority, it makes sense that sports like soccer and basketball are on the rise, while high-cost hockey is dwindling a bit.

Hockey is losing steam in Canada, and a surge in the minority population could be one of the reasons why.

In 2006, a report by Solutions Research Group analysis of Statistics Canada found that Canada's visible minority population will grow by over 70 per cent by 2017. That same group also found that basketball is the leading sport among fast-growing visible minority groups at 37 per cent, while soccer follows at 36 per cent, and hockey is third at 22 per cent.

In fact, hockey has seen a decline in participants, while soccer participation rises. Statistics Canada numbers show that youth who grow up in high-income families are more prone to play sports. With families dealing with a tough economy, where saving money is the number one priority, it makes sense that sports like soccer and basketball are on the rise, while high-cost hockey is dwindling a bit.

Although hockey numbers may be on a downslide, that doesn't mean all minor hockey associations are suffering. In towns like Gander, finding ice time is a huge issue. However, it would be interesting to look into a crystal ball and see exactly how many youth are playing hockey in 2020. If the trend continues, we may see more soccer pitches and basketball courts than hockey rinks.

It may sound kind of strange, but the next generation of parents may call themselves a soccer family instead of a hockey family. Nation-wide sports channels may show commercials of kids going to the soccer pitch at 7 a.m., instead of the rink. Wouldn't that be a sight?

Also, we must ask ourselves whether or not hockey culture is starting to affect many parents. The NHL is looking at eliminating headshots, people are debating if fighting should result in harsher penalties, and players today are smaller than they were 10-20 years ago. Bigger guys like Eric Lindros of the 90s are being replaced by speedsters like Patrick Kane, and although hitting is still a huge part of the game, it seems as though teams are turning towards athletic players instead of physically daunting players.

The incident at Glovertown a few weeks ago involving a minor hockey team from Botwood sours the sport, as well the fight last year that left Fogo Island minor hockey player Matthew Brett with three metal plates in his head. You can also search You Tube videos that show minor hockey parents fighting in the stands.

Whether it happens at the local level, or whether Hockey Canada steps in, something has to be done to fix the image of what truly is a beautiful game. How many brawls break out at swim meets? How often do fans yell at swimming officials?

Hockey is Canada's game, but we need to work on holding that distinction. Who cares about the professionals - they'll always be there. We need to work on the local level, and the many actions that take place during invitational tournaments, as well as provincial tournaments. If proper recourse isn't taken for violent actions that happen on and off the ice during a local bantam game today, something bigger is going to take place in the future. By then, of course, it will be too late, and metal plates will look like small potatoes compared to what could happen.

Someone has to take charge.

info@ganderbeacon.ca

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