The Popularity of Hockey

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(Washington Capitals vs Montreal Canadiens at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. on November 24, 2021 by All-Pro Reels)

Is Hockey Getting More or Less Popular?

The sport of ice hockey has been popular since its creation in Canada in the 19th century. It is one of the most widely-played sports here and in various other parts of the world, but has its popularity grown or fallen in the last few years?

Washington Capitals vs Montreal Canadiens at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. on November 24, 2021 (Photo by All-Pro Reels)

The Popularity Around the World

It was recently reported in the US that soccer had overtaken hockey to become the country’s fourth most-popular sport behind football, basketball, and baseball. This reflects the fact that soccer is now ahead of hockey in areas such as attendance, market value, and participation rates.

We can confirm this by looking at the infographic about sports streaming, showing the internet searches made for streamed events. This research puts hockey in fifth place, although it leads the way in Minnesota. Having said that, the levels of interest vary according to the time of year and perhaps there needs to be more of an effort to promote the NHL’s key dates throughout the season.

With the FIFA World Cup coming to North America in 2026, this could see soccer pull further ahead of hockey in the region. The Ice Hockey World Championships title went to Finland in 2022, when they defeated Canada in overtime. With the 2023 championship to be co-hosted by Finland and Latvia, this could be a chance for the sport to gain new followers by advertising the event well and offering live streams.

The Situation in Canada

Considered to be Canada’s national sport, hockey has traditionally been played by all age groups, meaning that there’s always a steady stream of new players coming through and plenty of others who simply want to watch the action.

Figures from 2010 showed that 1.3 million adults in the country played hockey, which put it in second place behind golf on the list of the most popular sports. However, for youngsters it dropped to third place behind soccer and swimming with part of the reason for this being the higher cost of hockey gear, giving us a sign that hockey could be losing ground.

On the other hand, women’s hockey is an area that’s been growing, with excellent growth rates in the first decade of this century. In the NHL the percentage of Canadians has fallen, with almost a thousand Canadians, close to 600 players from the US, and 225 from Sweden. Of course, this could be interpreted as hockey becoming less popular in Canada or else gaining more pro players from elsewhere.

The Montreal Canadiens remain one of the most supported teams in the league, and their home attendances continue to be close to the maximum capacity available season after season. Yet, this 2022 study by the Association of Canadian Studies suggests that hockey has seen a drop in TV viewership rates, as people engage less with their favorite sports and, in particular, with hockey.

We expect that hockey will always be hugely popular in Canada, but there’s no doubt that it currently faces some challenges due to the rise of soccer and the alternative pastimes now available.