However, a closer look at the numbers tells a different story.
Subsequently, Hockey Canada, the governing body of all amateur hockey, developed a program in 2012 intended to bolster registration not just in Canada, but world wide.
Hockey Canada’s Grow the Game is an international initiative to add 1 million skaters to minor hockey by 2022. With their partner Bauer Hockey, Inc., the program is one of many efforts aimed at upping Canada’s global hockey game.
The program’s research showed that 1 in 10 Canadian youth laced up in 2014. The team sport with the highest registered children is swimming, where participation is almost doubled, followed closely by dancing and soccer. Cost was one of the most widely perceived barriers to playing hockey.
While Hockey Canada’s data reveals increased registration numbers over the past decade, there has been a flattening of the growth.
USA Hockey’s registration on the other hand, shows more consistent growth, which has raised an alarm in Canadian hockey psyche.
Income not a likely factor
Despite media reports about the burdensome costs of hockey, according to Hockey Canada’s 2014 Annual Report and the National Household Survey, average household income does not affect families decisions to register their children in hockey.
In fact, the average household income does not show an impact on hockey registrations. Average household income does not dictate how many children in a given regional district are registering to play.
Out of the 123 amateur associations in B.C. Hockey, the median for registered players in 29 regional districts (including the Yukon Territory) is Kitimat-Stikine’s 7.33 per cent.
The district is home to four individual associations with 567 registered skaters out of a total population of 7,730 children between the ages 5-19. The average household income is $67,746.
In comparison, Metro Vancouver’s regional district, composed of 33 associations, has a 4.16 player percentage.
This means that out of a total of 384,460 eligible children, 16,022 that come from average household incomes of $83,606 play hockey.
The data suggests that families in the Metro Vancouver district might be able to afford to play hockey more so than families in the Kitimat-Stikine district. But the player percentage doesn’t reflect that. This data, however, does not include external factors such as cost of living, which may figure into the decision making process.
Girls participation still needs boost
The number of girls playing hockey in B.C. is just above the national average of girls’ registration across Canada, but not by much.
If associations in the province are concerned about plateauing registration numbers then girls are an untapped market.
Hockey Canada’s annual report reveals that girls make up approximately one-eighth of the registered skaters in B.C. at all levels of play.
While this is better than half of the provincial minor hockey associations, there is still a need to act.
Girls hockey organizations such as the Richmond Ravens and the Vancouver Angels have done their share to promote the game, said Raven’s president Patti Martin.
The organization hosts bring-a-friend days and learn-to-skate clinics. And they emphasize development, increasing female involvement in the league at all levels, including coaching and refereeing.
“We may be lagging behind other provinces just in terms of sheer numbers,” said Martin.
“But, our job as an association is to bring girls into hockey so that they can develop and can then play at all levels.”
Increasing the numbers must start at the initiation level, Martin said.
“We start as young as we can; we even take them before they know how to skate, because then they grow with us, allowing for a wider, more profitable distribution of skaters at all levels.”
The Ravens have at least two teams at every level, as well as three rep teams at the peewee, bantam, and midget categories.
Although B.C. Hockey is above the national average of registered girls, a concentrated effort to integrate them into organizations at a younger level may help the association reach the likes of Hockey P.E.I., which currently leads Hockey Canada associations with a 23.87 per cent registration rate.
Registration numbers are plateauing after a two-year surge in registration following the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
According to B.C. Hockey, 11,460 more boys played hockey in 2011-2012. This is an increase of 10,000 more registrants than the previous year.
The following year, girls registration numbers saw their largest increase with a record 1,634 new skaters.
The highest level of amateur hockey, Midget, has the most registrants with 7,969 skaters between the ages of 15 and 18 years old.
The Bantam Level, where skaters are between 15 and 15 years old, has the most registered female skaters, with 966 out of 6,786.
Initiatives like Grow the Game’s First Shift and International Ice Hockey Federation’s Girls’ Hockey Weekend strive to introduce children to the game at a younger age. However, out of these two initiatives, only one has a location in B.C.
First Shift introduces children to the sport at a low cost and in a non-competing environment. B.C. and Yukon share one program whereas provinces such as Alberta and Ontario have three and two locations respectively.
No locations in B.C. were involved with the IIHF’s Girl’s Hockey Weekend; only Hartney, Ont. participated.