Editorial

Is Ice Hockey Losing Popularity in Canada?

Ice hockey is the national sport for Canada but is it dying out? Find out what’s happening with hockey in Canada and what online betting reveals.

Hockey has long since been inextricably wound with the Canadian national identity and is widely accepted as being the sport of the nation.

But while ice hockey remains loved in Canada, are there signs that the love affair may be fading?

We take a closer look at the trends for ice hockey betting online and what that tells us about the sport’s popularity in Canada.

Betting on 2022 Winter Olympics

The stats for the Winter Olympics are generally a good test of interest in a sport, as big events attract lots of betting. This provides an accurate gauge of public enthusiasm beyond the regular bettors who gamble on the NHL all year round.

In the 2022 Winter Olympics, bets on ice hockey were sluggish, in what would seem to be a real indictment of the popularity of the sport. There wasn’t a surge in interest in ice hockey bets from Canada, as you’d typically expect to see for the national sport.

However, there may be another explanation. The NHL was severely disrupted by the global pandemic, and in December 2021, it opted to pull its players out of the Winter Olympics. This means that all the prominent household names attracting ice hockey fans were missing from the Winter Olympics.

Without the stars of the sport taking part, it’s impossible to draw any conclusions from the ice hockey bets about the health of the sport in Canada.

A Drop in Numbers

A study by sociology professor, Reginald Bibby, carried out in 2009, suggested that ice hockey was falling out of favour with younger generations.

His research showed that in the previous two decades, teen interest in pro hockey has significantly dropped. From 1990 to the date of publication in 2009, teen interest in pro hockey fell from 45% to 35%. The trend was also seen among older adults, with numbers dropping from 35% to 30%.

This would seemingly sound the death knell for ice hockey in Canada – until you examine the trend across other sports. It’s not just ice hockey which is falling in popularity; the same pattern is being repeated with soccer, the NFL and the NBA.

Part of the reason for this is the explosion in online entertainment. With much more diverse options, teens and adults are opting to spread their interests. This means that numbers may be dropping for hockey, but it’s not because of something the sport is doing wrong.

A New Generation of Fans

Professor Bibby has since carried out a follow-up study, and the results were surprising. Although the diversity of interests remains unchanged, there hasn’t been the continued drop-off that he predicted.

The results revealed that ice hockey had increased since the previous survey, with more adults and teens expressing an interest. Professor Bibby believes this is attributable to the immigrant population arriving in Canada, bringing new fans to the sport.

Statistics suggest that by 2031, a quarter of all Canadians will have been born overseas. That presents a vast audience who could potentially discover hockey as a new interest, preserving it as a national sport for the many years to come.

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