by Dan Adkisson
While ice hockey isn’t the biggest sport in the world, it is still played by hundreds of thousands of people, and is fiercely supported in many corners of the globe. Canada, in particular, has had a love affair with the sport almost since its birth.
Many argue that Canada is the home of ice hockey, and once you begin to dive into why Canadians love hockey so much, it isn’t hard to see why.
Canada seems to be the place where hockey started, and this is thanks to the First Nations people. The indigenous people of Canada played a sport similar to modern-day ice hockey, and many regard it as the forerunner of ice hockey.
Because of this, ice hockey is in the blood of many Canadians, with it being the sport so many people grew up watching, playing and enjoying.
No matter where you go in Canada, you are never far away from an ice rink. There is a reason a sport like soccer is so popular across the globe; most people have easy access to a field of some kind to play on.
Because of this accessibility, most Canadians choose ice hockey as their favorite sport, simply because it is easier to find a rink and team to play for, as opposed to any other facilities for different sports.
It suits Canada’s climate
It is important to note that most of Canada doesn’t have a ton of sunshine and summer weather throughout the year. Most of the time, it is cold, snowy and the type of winter that means you spend it bundled up in front of a fire.
Because of this, if you want to do an activity or play a sport, you have to do one that either suits the weather outside or can be played no matter the weather. Ice hockey is a sport that doesn’t need a certain climate or season to be played.
Anyone can play
While this is true of most sports, ice hockey doesn’t have an age or skill limit, per se. While you will need to be able to skate, which most Canadians can do since childhood, casual ice hockey is incredibly inclusive.
Because many Canadians gain basic ice hockey skills in their youth, they don’t forget these skills, and when they want to play a sport for fun, for exercise or competitively, more often than not, they will choose ice hockey.
Canadian pro players
This is another fairly obvious one, but professional leagues around the world are packed with Canadian players. You could probably walk into any city or town in Canada and there will be at least one pro player who was born there. A good example is Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, born and raised in Richmond Hill, Ontario, who many believe is the best player in the world right now.
Because of this, there is a ton of support for players who play both in Canada and overseas. Ice hockey players are also arguably Canada’s biggest sporting export, as there aren’t many Canadians playing in big leagues in other sports.
One of the main reasons why soccer is so popular in the UK is because there is a very extensive league pyramid system. Within this league system are thousands of teams dotted across every major county, city and town.
Likewise, Canada has multiple high school and college leagues, as well as amateur and semi-professional clubs. This means that there is always local ice hockey to play and watch, unlike most, if not all, other sports in the country.
Infrastructure & training
It would be a mistake to underestimate how important infrastructure is when it comes to the popularity of a sport. Because Canada has so many world-class rinks, teams, arenas, coaches and so on, more people want to play the sport.
People wanting to play a sport is a huge part of a sport’s popularity. Once again, soccer isn’t the biggest sport in the world purely because so many people watch it; it is also because millions and millions of people play it.
Multiple pro teams
Another big boost to a sport’s popularity is in the form of pro teams. When you have access to multiple pro teams, you are able to watch the sport being played at the highest level on a regular basis.
Canada has seven teams that play in the NHL, with a handful more sitting just over the border within driving distance from most cities in the south of the country.
Canada excels at hockey
While this is clearly not the only reason why ice hockey is so popular in the country, it is an important one; Canada is exceptional at ice hockey. To take this further, they are arguably better at hockey than at any other sport.
While there is a Canadian basketball team, soccer teams and even a Canadian American Football league, Canadians want to watch hockey. Their country’s excellence in the sport means every other sport takes a backseat, and hockey gets the majority of the attention.