• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

4 Countries Where Hockey is Popular (Including Countries in Africa)

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People tend to think of hockey and think about the ice, the thousands of rowdy fans, and the huge padding the players play to take on this lightning-fast sport. Ice hockey is one of the most popular sports in North America, as we know, and it also has a presence in the Olympics and other global competitions. Colder countries are often those that have a big hockey scene, but not exclusively, and some sweltering hot nations also enjoy the sport.

As well as ice hockey, the original game of hockey is also popular in a lot of locations, which is played with similar sticks and a ball rather than a puck, and not played on the ice.

Hockey is growing globally for many reasons, one of which is the fact that it is easier to follow teams and watch hockey games due to the internet and the fact that teams can connect to a huge audience. Even in countries you might not associate with hockey, there are teams that could surprise you.

Another factor creating growth in the sport is the fact that there is a thriving gambling industry around hockey, with people able to place bets on all kinds of fixtures wherever they are in the world. Hockey bets include proposition bets on certain players and outcomes as well as backing a certain team to win a match or even a tournament. The gambling industry is always tied to sport and this is no different for hockey, which benefits from the extra eyeballs that come from gambling on the games.

Countries that you won’t be surprised by have made our list, but also some you may not have realized had a hockey scene at all.

The US

25 of the teams in the NHL are based in the US, with many of these in the northern states where the climate is a bit colder. Not all of them, though, as ice hockey is played in climate-controlled arenas and it really doesn’t matter the outside temperature. The NHL is the biggest tournament in the whole of the world when it comes to hockey, with its own set of video games and huge sponsorships. Outside of the international level of the game, the NHL is really the elite level.

A survey of adults performed in 2023 found that about 13% of respondents were fans of hockey in some format, describing themselves as “avid fans” while a further 25% said they were “casual fans”. This means around 38% of all Americans follow the sport.

Canada

Seven of the teams taking part in the NHL are based in Canada, a country known for producing many of the stars of the sport. At an international level, the Canadians tend to perform very well in competitions.

Nigerian hockey has even had an influence on the global stage via Canada, as Rumun Ndur was born in Nigeria before coming to prominence playing in the NHL.

Ndur is not alone, either, in taking the US or North America by storm, as he is joined by many African stars who have moved there and done incredible things, such as Francis Ngannou who is renowned as one of the best MMA fighters in his division.

A lot of the world thinks of Canada as the birthplace of hockey, and especially ice hockey, which has helped to turn it into one of the top locations for watching the sport. It is their official winter sport.

South Africa

It may surprise people to learn that South Africa has its own Ice Hockey Association and that the game has been played there for almost 100 years. The South African national team has competed against other nations since the 1960s.

The South African field hockey team is also regularly a threat at the Olympics and other international competitions, as this country has a real enthusiasm for different variations of the sport. Okay, we know that field hockey and ice hockey are quite different, but they are undeniably linked.

Nigeria

Nigerians tend to enjoy sports, and though Ice hockey is a niche sport in Nigeria it is played on the ice in some parts of the country. There is an ice rink situated in Lagos which was added to the Silverbird Galleria in 2006. Plus, the Ikeja City Mall has an artificial “Philorem Ice Skating Arena” helping people to hone their skating skills.

Nigeria also has a field hockey team that regularly does well at the African competitions, including a recent third-place finish.

Conclusion

These are just some of the countries where we see ice hockey played. NHL and international ice hockey have global appeal, hence the huge betting market. In Europe, hockey is played by many people in the UK as well as Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, which adds to the theory that cold-weather countries usually embrace ice hockey more. But this doesn’t tell the whole story, and if you go to some areas of Africa, or even as far afield as Asia and Australia, you’ll find people who watch hockey as well as play the game.