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Poll hints at hockey's demographic problem

We asked Village Media readers how interested they are in the hockey season — and one graph hints at the game's long-term decline
2020-03-02 High School Hockey St. Mary's vs. Korah BC (1)
Brad Coccimiglio/SooToday

Winter has set in, and for many that means focusing on the hockey season. 

How interested are readers? Well, it varies, from diehard superfans to people who glance at the headlines the morning after to those who unapologetically don't care at all.

In an online poll recently, it was clear that most readers paid at least a little bit of attention to what's going on in the NHL.  

Some 1,202 of you voted.   

As might be expected, men have much more interest than women:

This may be the most significant graph: under-50s have markedly less interest in hockey than their elders. Under-50s have similar levels of indifference to hockey that women in general do:

It reminds me of sports reporter Sean Fitz-Gerald's 2020 book Before the Lights Go Out: A Season Inside a Game on the Brink, which laments the sport's long-term decline.

The publisher's blurb calls says it " ... reads, in the end, like a letter to a troubled friend: it's not too late to save hockey in this country, but who has the will to do it?"

An Alberta researcher whose study showed declining youth interest in professional hockey cited a number of factors, including a shortage of Canadian NHL teams paired with the Leafs's uninspiring performance, immigration from parts of the world with no tradition of hockey, and falling interest in professional sports in general.

A 2022 survey found that while all professional sports have seen a fall in viewership, none have seen a sharper one than hockey. As well, youth hockey has seen a serious decline, driven in part by the sport being expensive.

Readers living with children under 18 were somewhat more likely to ignore the NHL, but I think this must be because of an overlap with the under-50 demographic.

Political views don't seem to matter at all, other than that Green voters are more likely to ignore the NHL:

(This led me to another question with an environmental angle, about whether people wanted an EV or hybrid for their next car: those who said yes have less interest in the NHL than those who said no.)

And perhaps unsurprisingly. people who said that given the power to choose they would opt for a snowy, cold winter have more interest in the hockey season than those who would choose something milder:

Patrick Cain

About the Author: Patrick Cain

Patrick is an online writer and editor in Toronto, focused mostly on data, FOI, maps and visualizations. He has won some awards, been a beat reporter covering digital privacy and cannabis, and started an FOI case that ended in the Supreme Court
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