ZURICH – Over 1.7 million people play ice hockey worldwide according to an IIHF survey that included 72 participating countries. The number only includes players registered with the national governing hockey bodies and their affiliates while including pick-up hockey players would increase the number even more.
Canada remains the country with the most players. 639,500 players are registered in ice hockey’s motherland, followed by 543,239 players in the United States.
Seven traditional European hockey countries follow behind North America:
Czech Republic, 109,103
Behind the co-hosts of the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship follow two countries not everybody would have in mind since their men’s national teams play in the third tier. Japan completes the top-10 with 18,988 registered players followed by Great Britain (12,462) and Slovakia (12,380).
Looking at the success of Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, it may be interesting to check out the numbers of the area they represent. In total 176,616 players are registered in European countries outside of the big four – the Czech Republic, Russia, Finland and Sweden. And 108,014 players are registered in the eight European countries represented by the players in Team Europe.
That number would lift the “Team Europe area” toward the top position of the European countries and explains why these eight countries together produce enough world-class players to form a team good enough to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup leaving the Czech Republic and the United States behind in their preliminary-round group.
Comparing the numbers with the population, hockey is most popular among, of course, Canadians. Every 55th Canadian is a registered hockey player. In Finland it’s every 74th, in the Czech Republic every 98th, in Sweden every 162nd and in Latvia every 297th. Four smaller countries not competing at the top level make the top-16 in this statistic: Iceland is ranked eighth with every 586th inhabitant being a hockey player, but there are only a bit over 330,000 people living on the island in the North Atlantic and the 566 hockey players have to share three ice rinks. Estonia is 11th (908 people per one hockey player), Luxembourg 15th (1429) and Andorra 16th (1646). Also making the top-10 are Switzerland (6th, 302), Slovakia (7th, 440), the United States (9th, 592) and Norway (10th, 786).
Women’s hockey is among the winners of the survey. There are four per cent more female hockey players than one year ago and the number is growing almost everywhere. The absolute numbers, however, diverge more than in men’s hockey. Canada (87,500) and the United States (73,076) are again leader while the rest of the world together has less than half of their numbers. Finland (5,950), Sweden (5,014), the Czech Republic (2,714), Japan (2,586), Germany (2,416), France (2,206), Russia (1,964) and Switzerland (1,230) complete the top-10.
Not only the size of the hockey communities in the countries are a reason but also different rates of female participation. In Canada 13.7 per cent of the players are female and in the United States 13.5%. In most top hockey countries in Northern and Western Europe, the numbers are between five and ten per cent while in Eastern Europe the numbers tend to be lower such as 1.9 per cent in Russia or 1.5 per cent in Latvia.
The numbers tend to be higher in Asia. 13.6 per cent of Japanese ice hockey players are female. In China, host of the 2022 Olympics, it’s even 26.7 per cent and in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 39.7 per cent. Also Kuwait (33.8%), Turkey (30.1%) and Argentina (25.9%) rank high.
Find here the full Survey of Players
or visit the various country profiles