Is climate change raining on the future of hockey?
Backyard hockey rinks may become extinct in Canada if climate change goes unchecked, a renowned McGill University scientist says.
"In the next 50 years, the skating season could disappear in most of the regions across Canada," Lawrence Mysak told CTV Montreal.
Fellow researcher Damon Matthews said historical data for the study was collected from 140 weather stations across the country since the 1950s.
The team scoured the information looking for the number of appropriate days for rink-building, which consist of three consecutive days of -5 Celsius temperatures or lower.
What they found was a pattern -- fewer days during the winter that create the perfect conditions for setting up a backyard rink.
"A somewhat later start date (fall), although most of the changes have to do with spring coming earlier rather than fall coming later," Matthews said.
Since 1950, winter temperatures in Canada have increased by more than 2.5 C, the researchers said.
Regions that seem to be most affected by milder winter weather are the Prairies, southeastern British Columbia and southern Ontario and Quebec. The Maritimes and northern parts of the country did not see significant changes over the years, Mysak said.
If the trends continue, Canada's cultural identity -- undeniably intertwined with winter sports -- could be on the line, Matthews said.
But the struggle to keep an ice rink open this winter hasn't stifled the will of a Montreal family.
Children Jonas and Claire Von Eschen are digging out after their ice surface was buried by the latest snowfall.
A mix of warm and cold weather throughout the winter has made their mini coliseum high maintenance.
"It was slush, there was slush on top and it started decaying on one side completely," said mom Kelly Von Eschen.
"It's going to be hard to fix," Jonas pipes up, while surveying the buried ice surface inside the boards.
Their backyard was once an outdoor playground, similar to others where so many hockey players were made, including Wayne Gretzky. His dad Walter built a rink every winter behind their Brantford, Ont. home.
"This is what it's all about," Walter Gretzky said at an outdoor pond hockey event recently. "This is where it all starts. Without this there are no pro hockey players."
The good news is the outcome isn't inevitable if we lower emissions and other causes of climate change, the scientists said.
With a report from CTV's Montreal Bureau Chief Genevieve Beauchemin and files from The Canadian Press