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Has basketball dethroned hockey as Canada’s favourite sport?

Look at what the Raptors have done.

The National Sports of Canada Act says that hockey is our national sport. Since the creation of the NHL in 1917, Canada was considered to be, without a doubt, a “hockey country.” Hockey tickets were the most expensive to buy and Hockey Night in Canada was the most popular sports broadcast in the country. But that seems to be changing.

Daniel Johnston, a father of two, says that his kids have no interest in hockey:

“I love hockey. I grew up on hockey. I wish I could put my kids in hockey but they don’t care for it. They only care about basketball. They run around the house wearing their Lowry jerseys.”

Empty indoor ice rink. Photo curtesy of Pixabay

Over the last three to four years there has been a signifiant increase in demand for basketball that can be attributed to the growing success of the Toronto Raptors. On June 13th 2019, the Toronto Raptors won their first ever NBA championship. The first championship won outside of the United States. The NBA says that a record eight million Canadians watched the Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors that night. It also says that 56% of the Canadian population tuned in to the finals at some point.

On June 17th 2019, the Raptors had their celebration parade in Toronto. Forbes says that an estimated one to two million people showed up for the parade. Hockey in Canada has never had that big of a response from fans.

Joe Maalouf is a student at The College of Sport Media. He says that Canada is no longer just a hockey country:

“I think Canada was still a hockey country until the Raptors won the championship. Until fans saw that this basketball team is actually serious. So I think that the Raptors winning everything has really shown to Canada as a whole that it’s no longer just a hockey country. It’s kind of a split between the both, now with the majority liking basketball.”

Toronto Raptors vs Miami Heat. November 4th 2016

Of 30 Sheridan students asked, 18 claimed to prefer basketball over hockey. Matthew Thompson, a student at the Davis campus, was one of them:

“Basketball all the way. Look how unified the people of Canada got while cheering for the Raptors. Hockey could never do that because it divides Canadians instead of bringing them together.”

Michael Fournier was one of the 12 of the 30 people surveyed who said that they believed Canada was still a hockey country:

“Canada is a hockey country and will always be a hockey country. The Raptors are the new shiny thing that catches everyone’s eye but eventually Canadians will get bored and go back to their tried and true.”

Maryam Bukhari said, “I think Canada is still a hockey country. Just look at the people on the street. You’re more likely to see someone wearing a Leafs jersey than a Raptors one.”

BNN Bloomberg says that there has been a 169.23% increase in Raptors ticket prices from the $26 USD in 1995 to the average $70 USD from 2018.

The cheapest price for a Maple leafs ticket in 2019 is $103. Screenshot taken from Ticketmaster.com
The cheapest ticket for a Raptors game in 2019 is $322. Screenshot taken from Ticketmaster.com

“I don’t think Canada will ever forget its roots, I think it will always have hockey as a love deep down. But I think it’ll be a second or third love behind basketball . . . Everyone’s still gonna love hockey but people are also just gonna love other sports,” said Maalouf.

Written by
Gabrielle Esteves
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