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September 07, 2016

Canada Remains On Top, But Trouble Brewing

According to IIHF statistics, Canada has 2361 indoor hockey rinks, plus another 5000 officially recognized outdoor outdoor rinks. That is 7361 hockey rinks, and that does not even include all the frozen lakes and sloughs that, despite global warming's best efforts, still visit every year.

7361 hockey rinks. Think about that for a second. 7361 hockey rinks.

That is approximately 1400 more than the United States, Russia, Sweden, Finland and Slovakia combined (6,238).

Forget about the outdoor rinks for a second. 2361 indoor hockey rinks. According to Statista.com, as of 2014 Canada had 1461 publicly funded hospitals by comparison.

A growing number of those rinks, like the hospitals, are getting old and need refurbishing or replacing. Corporate sponsorship will help out there, but Canada is facing a significant number of issues going forward.

Fewer and fewer youth are playing hockey in Canada. Fear of injuries and violence has always been a concern. Youth population is dwindling in many areas, as people are having fewer and fewer kids. Many of the kids nowadays come from families that recently immigrated to Canada. They may be Canadian, but their national sporting interest remains elsewhere, likely soccer or basketball. And kids of every persuasion have never had more things to do than in these current times

Cost is prohibitive. According to Hockey Canada the average family spends $3000 a year for youth hockey, but that is just the average. The elite players - or at least the parents who buy into the dream that their kids can be elite - pay in excess of $10,000 easily once you include all the skills camps and one-on-one instruction. And that's just for the equipment and ice time and coaching, let alone travel costs many have to incur.

Hockey Canada has to do something about introducing the game to new Canadians and reigning in costs. All might seem great in Canada right now, but the future could be dark.

Yes, Canada has won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in both men's and women's Olympic hockey. It has won the last two World Championships, and is the number one ranked country in the IIHF world rankings. They are undeniably the team to beat in September's World Cup of Hockey.

But the coming generations might prove to be weaker than in the past. Not only is youth interest dwindling, but it's starting to show. Our showings at the U18 and U20 World Juniors have been poor by our lofty standards. And the 2016 NHL draft featured as many players from St. Louis as from all of Canada in the top 15 picks.

Yes Canada is the best hockey team in the world, and will always remain a world power. But the powerful machine on top - well oiled by the likes of Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Carey Price and Mike Babcock - mask a number of serious concerns that will soon come to the surface.

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