Striving for growth and change in hockey’s birthplace

The impacts of COVID-19 have brought changes and new ideas to almost all aspects of life.

Why would hockey be any different?

In hockey-crazed Canada, leaders of the youth hockey community have identified the need for change. At the “birthplace of hockey” as Canada is affectionately known, it is time to make the sport more welcoming and accessible to the changing demographics and lifestyles within the country.

The Future of Hockey Lab — first opening in Nova Scotia — will be actively pursuing the aforementioned needs, as its founders strive to find new ways to grow the game outside of its traditional audience.

Spanning across the top of the program’s new website upon each visit: ‘The Future of Hockey Lab enables the creation, experimentation and testing of game-changing ideas and innovations to make the sport of hockey more accessible for all who wish to participate.’

A five-point list outlines its mission just below the mission statement. Those are:

The Future of Hockey Lab was co-founded by Hockey Nova Scotia executive director Amy Walsh and Carolyn Townsend, previously with Sport Nova Scotia. 

“We know the sport of hockey is truly loved by many, but it’s really only accessible to a select few and that select few is getting smaller and smaller,” Walsh said in an interview with CBC. “So this is really about testing ideas and new innovations that might make the game more accessible to all people.”

Hockey Canada is assisting with the creation of the lab, and there is financial support from Bauer Hockey, Scotiabank and Canadian Tire through their Jumpstart Charities initiative.

It’s a project that has been in the works for a few years now, as Hockey Nova Scotia commissioned a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force in December of 2019 to speak with the general public about how to better make hockey a welcoming sport for all.

That task force spoke with 840 members of their community — many who had bad experiences and left the game or never started at all — and produced a report to make the hockey community take a look in the mirror.

From there, Hockey Nova Scotia created “The Player’s Journey” in which they mapped out the experience of a player from start to finish, creating hundreds of data points on how to improve the customer experience for players of all ages. The Women’s Worlds Legacy Development Plan, meanwhile, was created by female hockey players to help better support the girls’ game and help grow and enhance it.

The Future of Hockey Lab’s ‘theory of change’ shared below is something that can be embraced by all hockey nations, not just Canada.

“WHAT IF… Folks from communities across the province could get all the supports they need to develop and TRY game-changing ideas and innovations? Running experiments to address barriers to access in hockey, and learning what works and what doesn’t—then growing, expanding and supporting everything that works. This is our theory of change, and how we can one day realize a more inclusive game.”

There’s always room for the sport to grow, and to do that, everyone needs to do their best to make hockey a fun, rewarding and welcoming experience for all its participants and their families. 

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