A quintessentially Canadian winter tradition – outdoor ice hockey – could be facing extinction within decades because of climate change, a new study says.
Pick-up games of ice hockey, also called shinny or pond hockey, are a way of life during the long winters. Many towns are studded with neighbourhood ice rinks, some families even freeze over their backyards. Ottawa has the Rideau Canal, the 5-mile skate run through the nation’s capital. But such pursuits are in peril as milder winters and earlier springs pare down the outdoor ice season.
The ice season has shortened noticeably over the last 50 years, especially in southern British Columbia and Alberta and parts of the prairie provinces, the study in the Institute of Physics’ journal, Environmental Research Letters, says.
It takes a long cold spell to be able to build a good foundation for ice sports – at least three days in a row at -5C, the researchers determined, from interviews with public rink officials.
But temperature records from 142 weather stations across the southern belt of Canada, where most of the population lives, showed a distinct warming trend from 1951-2005.
According to the criteria set by rink officials, many of those locations would have experienced later start dates for outdoor skating over the years. Most showed shorter seasons, as much as 20 to 30% shorter in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba and parts of western Ontario. Only Atlantic Canada showed a longer season.