Imagine yourself waking up to a snowy, Canadian winter; a sight that many Canadians long for from the time snow first hits our streets. A time when the best thing you can do is pick up your skates, call your friends and walk to the nearest outdoor hockey rink to enjoy Canada’s favourite pastime, hockey. This image defines Canadians. We see it on commercials and even on the back of our $5 bill.
“Hockey started on the outdoor rinks. It’s where dreams are created for hockey players,” said Kevin Figsby, head coach of the Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team. “You know you’re a Canadian kid when you’re walking down the street with the skates on and your stick over your shoulder.”
Now imagine this image seriously altered in the next 50 years or so.
Concordia geography professor Damon Matthews co-authored a study on the effects of climate change on outdoor rinks; they are predicting their disappearance across the country in the next five decades.
According to the study, it takes three consecutive days of a minimum of -5 C to begin the outdoor skating season. Therefore, because of the winters getting constantly warmer, “the number of viable rink-flooding days could reach zero by mid-century,” the study stated.
“I knew this would be an issue that would resonate with Canadians,” Matthews and other researchers wrote in the latest issue of the U.K.-based scholarly journal Environmental Research Letters.
“There are outdoor ice surfaces that don’t need to be maintained strictly by the temperature of the climate,” said Figsby. “Montreal has four of them and are on their way to building a fifth.”
These types of rinks do not require the constant maintenance and cold weather the current outdoor rinks require. The borough of Verdun recently built its own skating rink equipped with a refrigerated surface, an investment that cost $1 million to build and that was made possible by the Montreal Canadiens’ Children’s Foundation. We need a lot more of these across the country.
Montreal hasn’t been the only city investing in these types of rinks. A number of municipalities across Canada have invested in refrigerated outdoor rinks that can remain open during the winter. More investment needs to be made to ensure that these rinks are fully funded, and can replace all the outdoor rinks that currently exist.
With the disappearance of outdoor rinks, a main component of Canadian culture will be lost. These rinks not only represent an important role in the development of children around the country, but also create a good opportunity for physical activity.
In a country where hockey is considered by some as a religion, playing the sport outside has become a hobby for millions.
“I think hockey creates a sense of spirit, a sense of belonging, a sense of community, and certainly instills Canadian values in kids,” said Figsby.