Slapshot to the Future: Canada’s Declining Youth Hockey Numbers Sound Alarm

Canada Faces Decline in Youth Hockey Enrollment (Canada Hockey)

On a chilly winter Saturday, the Susan Fennell Sportsplex in Canada is bustling with activity on all four ice rinks. The sounds of hockey skates and pucks fill the air, a familiar scene in countless rinks across the country.

However, behind the excitement, a concerning trend is emerging. Youth hockey participation in Canada has plummeted by nearly 25% over the past 15 years, a decline that began before the pandemic.

Canada Hockey Team (Canada Hockey)

The cost of equipment, ice time, coaching, and travel programs has become prohibitively expensive for many families, leading them to opt for sports like soccer and basketball instead. This shift has raised concerns about the future of grassroots hockey in a country that has nurtured the sport for over 150 years.

Coaches like Alex Klimsiak, who has seen enrollment decline in his Brampton teams over the past six years, are sounding the alarm. “It saddens me,” Klimsiak said. “The pandemic magnified the issue, but it was already a concern before.”

Despite a slight rebound in 2023, youth hockey participation remains below pre-pandemic levels, while sports like soccer and tennis have already recovered.

The decline has sparked warnings from industry leaders like Bauer CEO Ed Kinnaly, who declared in 2022 that the number of kids playing hockey in Canada was “spiraling downward.”

With the sport’s popularity growing in the US and elsewhere, the decline in Canada has raised concerns about the future of hockey in its birthplace.