Archive for February 22nd, 2010
With all the alleged gnashing of teeth and rending of sweaters in Canada over its Olympic hockey team’s 5-3 loss to the United States on home ice in Vancouver Sunday night, I would like to take you back to a post of mine from August 2009 about a study showing that Canadian kids care less and less about the presumed national sport.
To be so self-referential I’m going to get inside my own mind like John Malkovich in “Being John Malkovich,” here is what I wrote earlier about Canadian youth and their relationship with hockey. The survey, by University of Lethbridge (Alberta) sociology professor Reginald Bibby, was done in the context of the possibility of southern Ontario becoming the seventh Canadian market for the National Hockey League.
According to Bibby’s survey of 5,500 Canadian teens, the interest in the NHL fell to 35 percent in 2008 from 45 percent in 1992. The decline in Ontario was 40 to 28, with only 20 percent of Toronto teens following the league. … Of those teens whose parents, and themselves, were born in Canada, 40 percent followed the NHL. Of those teens who were born (and whose parents were born) outside of Canada, only 20 percent were interested in the NHL. Those non-native born teens were mostly likely to follow the NBA (31 percent) and soccer (30 percent).
Blake Lambert of the Faster Times cited Bibby’s research in creating his own reaction to Canada’s Olympic loss: “Canada Loses in Hockey. So What?”
In my corner of downtown Toronto, which is home to immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, I have yet to see a single child play street hockey. At the middle school up the street, basketball and soccer are fashionable; cricket is even a summertime pursuit at a park northeast of my home.
In the Toronto area — not just the city, but the suburbs, too — 45.7 percent of all residents are foreign-born as of the 2007 Canadian census, up from 43.7 percent five years previously. In Vancouver, where fans are presumably feeling the pain a little more because the last American goal was scored by Vancouver Canuck Ryan Kesler, 39.6 percent of all residents are foreign-born. English is the primary household language of 54.1 percent of Canadians, while the other official language, French, is at only 1.2 percent. Outdistancing the francophones are Chinese (all dialects), 8.1 percent, Italian, 3.7 percent, and Punjabi, 2.6 percent.
A Punjabi sports show, based in Vancouver.
In the whole of Canada, 20 percent — one out of five — residents was born somewhere other than under the Maple Leaf flag. The government itself says Canada’s growth is almost wholly reliant on immigration. By comparison, the United States has a foreign-born population of 12.6 percent.
Certainly it would be ridiculous to dismiss out-of-hand the agony many Canadians feel over their loss to the United States. However, by the numbers, it looks like hockey in Canada is going to evolve culturally like basketball in my native Indiana.
The sport will always be a strong part of the culture. But as time goes on, as the population changes, and as children are given more choices for sports and activities than their forebears, the intensity of the pain of having a loser in “our” game will be lesser for youth than it is for middle-agers, who remember the glory days when a single sport was everything.