Why Is Ice Hockey So Popular in Canada? (Not Just The Cold Weather)

Posted on May 31, 2022 by Dan Kent
Canadian Player

Even people who have never watched a hockey game in their life can tell you that it’s the sport of Canada. This is common knowledge but have you ever wondered why? Why are ice hockey and Canada so synonymous with each other?

There are a variety of reasons why hockey is so intensely popular in Canada — including the fact that it’s the country’s official national sport. The culture of hockey spreads from all corners of Canada and there are more passionate fans per capita than can be found in any other country around the world.

The game of ice hockey welcomes a large variety of people and many players want to pass on their positive experiences with the sport to their children, thus continuing the cycle of the game.

The Culture of Ice Hockey in Canada

Canadian Hockey Fans
Photo by s.yume at licensed under CC BY 2.0

While the game may not have originally originated in Canada, the modern version of the sport certainly has. There are more Canadian NHL players than any other nationality — though the US has been catching up in recent years. Ice hockey is the official sport of the country, with passionate fans found in every city across the land.

Canadians play hockey more than any other sport, making it clear why it’s labeled their national pastime. With so many young children and adults playing the sport alike, it’s no wonder that the sport becomes ingrained into the culture of the Canadian people.

With so many people who have grown up playing and watching the sport and then continuing the tradition with their future families, the sport has become deeply embedded in generation after generation.

Hockey can be a great way for individuals to find a sense of community and with the many benefits that ice hockey offers to players, such as teamwork and character building, it’s an incredibly upstanding sport to be a part of.

How Many Canadians Actually Play Hockey?

Canadas Golden Moment
Photo by s.yume at licensed under CC BY 2.0

While many people can deem themselves fans of the game and they enjoy catching their favorite NHL team at a few home games a season — how many Canadians are actually strapping on skates and getting onto the ice to participate themselves?

Over 40% of NHL players hail from Canada, which is actually a much smaller number when you compare it to the percentages from just a couple of decades ago when Canadians absolutely dominated the game at the professional level.

As of the 2019-2020 season, there were over 607,000 registered players in Canada alone. With over half a million citizens participating, one could confidently say that there are quite a few households in the country where ice hockey reigns supreme. Whether it’s a child taking on their first season or their father who participates in the local beer league, the sport continues to take hold of every new generation and creates lifelong fans.

What Brings Young Players Into the Sport?

Canada Hockey Place
Photo by Chase N. at licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

While young players may be encouraged by their parents to try out for the hockey team, they may also find several other pathways to getting into the sport. If it’s something that all of their friends are interested in, it’s likely that they’ll want to be a part of it as well.

There is no shortage of hall of fame NHL players who have come out of Canada, including the greatest player to ever play the game — Wayne Gretsky. Young fans have many choices of idols when it comes to the sport and they may find themselves inspired to attempt to emulate that type of success and glory.

While lacrosse is considered the summer sport in Canada, most people wouldn’t be able to guess this fact. The official winter sport, ice hockey, reigns the most popular among Canadians and it’s a game that they wait in anticipation for every year.

Will Ice Hockey Ever Lose Popularity in Canada?

Watching the Hockey Game
Photo by Happy Worker at licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Despite the fact that other countries are trying to catch up to Canada, they haven’t done so yet. Even if one day in the future the United States gains the title of having the largest nationality percentage in the NHL, hockey and Canada will still go hand in hand. The culture that has developed around the sport is far too ingrained for it to dissipate at this point.

The US is a larger country than Canada by nearly 10 times — making it inevitable that as the sport gains popularity in the states, there may one day be more American players. However, the passion and determination of Canadian players and fans will be a harder battle to win and one that the United States is unlikely able to surpass in upcoming years.

With the long and tenured history of the sport in Canadian culture, it’s unlikely that it’ll ever dissipate or lose the interest of the nation. Every season, children are signing up for their first lessons and try out for their first team and it’s very likely that a few of them will be up for the NHL draft down the line.

Canada’s National Sport

Canada Flag in Hockey Place
Photo by s.yume at licensed under CC BY 2.0

It’s hard to think of a time when hockey will no longer be popular in Canada, even as other countries begin to catch up with developing top-tier NHL players and produce great talent for the new round of draftees. Many people will always consider ice hockey the most popular sport in Canada and can picture young children playing on frozen ponds at the local park.

There are a number of reasons why hockey is so popular in Canada, including the generational passion that has been passed down the line. With 7 NHL teams in Canada, many children grow up idolizing the players on their favorite team and may even dream of one day playing alongside them. The US has over three times as many NHL teams (25) but still stands inferior to Canada in terms of the number of active players.

Hockey develops the youth in a way that other sports try but may not always succeed at. The sport develops the communication skills of its players as well as offers a physical and mental outlet for the players who are seeking one.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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