Toronto Mike

Is Hockey Losing Its Grip on Canada’s Sporting Culture?

As if you didn’t know, hockey is the most popular sport in Canada. Even though lacrosse is touted as the national game, it’s sticks, ice and pucks that dominate the ratings. Despite a lull in the viewing figures between 2013 and 2016, interest surged following the Toronto Maple Leafs 2016 NHL run. According to the stats, Hockey Night in Canada saw an 11% increase in viewers to hit an average audience of 1.8 million during the 2016-2017 season. Additionally, Sportsnet’s regional Leafs broadcasts showed a 32% year-on-year uptick.

Put simply, hockey is Canada’s top sport and it doesn’t look as though it’s going to lose its position any time soon. However, what is interesting to note is the influence modern technology is having on the country’s sporting preferences. As per a recent article by Vice, the landscape is changing. If we circle back to lacrosse, there is already something of a resurgence going on thanks to online streaming. In April 2018, the National Lacrosse League partnered with over-the-top content (OTT) service, Bleacher Report Live.

Tech Brings New Sports into the Spotlight

The partnership not only aligned lacrosse with sports such as baseball but gave it a new presence across multiple online platforms. Although the relationship is still evolving, early reports have shown that online lacrosse broadcasts have attracted an average of 300,000+ viewers via Twitter and other sites. While that can’t compare to the numbers hockey is notching up, it’s certainly an improvement on the viewing figures the sport was getting on traditional cable stations. If the internet can do that for a niche sport like lacrosse, it’s hardly surprising that it’s also giving established pursuits a greater standing in Canada.

On a global scale, soccer is the biggest sport in the world. However, in Canada, it’s hasn’t quite reached the same level of popularity. Things are starting to change though. As per Vice’s report, registration numbers for hockey in Canada between 2015 and 2016 were 549,614 males and 86,925 females. Based on those numbers, soccer participation was higher. Analysing the situation, Toronto Star writer Doug Smith told Vice that “new Canadians” aren’t growing up with hockey in the same way. With access to other sports now easier than ever, people are choosing other pastimes. Online streaming and social media are access points, but there are more.

A World of Odds and Entertainment

Online sports betting has also opened exposed Canadians to new forms of entertainment. Inside a modern online sports betting site, customers not only get to see odds for various events but information. At LeoVegas Sports, for example, the daily betting lines are complemented by statistics, expert insights and even live streams. By creating a complete entertainment hub, these sites are making it easier to be entertained and educated on new sports. Beyond betting platforms, YouTube offers on-demand access to anything and everything. Similarly, podcasts like our own or Skip and Shannon: Undisputed are a perfect way to move outside of Canada’s traditions and experience sport on an international level.

Hockey is and probably always will be the biggest sport in Canada. However, there’s no doubt things are changing. Modern tech has made it easier for people to experience something new and that’s moving the proverbial goalposts.

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