Bauer Hockey has announced a multi-faceted, 10-year global initiative designed to increase hockey participation among those families not currently involved with the sport and to ensure the future of the game by adding 1 million additional players – on top of current participation growth projections – by 2022.
The first phase of the initiative, announced at Bauer Hockey's annual Bauer World event, is an in-depth Canadian research project designed to identify the core reasons why nearly 90 percent of Canadian children choose not to play hockey. In partnership with Hockey Canada, Bauer Hockey will conduct two pilot research projects in Nova Scotia and Ontario beginning by January 2013. Subsequent phases of this 10-year plan will include similar studies alongside USA Hockey in the United States as well as in key markets around the globe.
At the current hockey participation growth rate of 1.5 percent per year, an estimated 975,000 additional players will be playing hockey in 10 years. Under the Bauer Hockey-led initiative that aims to more than double the growth rate by 2022, the sport could add a total of 1.9 million players, approximately 1 million more than current growth rate projections.
"As the industry leader, we feel it is our responsibility to invest the resources necessary to help propel our game to new levels," said Kevin Davis, President and CEO of Bauer Performance Sports. "In order to achieve these goals, we need to broaden our consumer insights and employ a unique approach."
The two Canadian research projects will study potential barriers to play for non-hockey families and explore factors that may vary by region and demographics. By partnering with Hockey Canada, Bauer Hockey looks to identify these factors, determine the necessary steps to break down the obstacles and develop strategies for growth on a regional and national level.
"Hockey Canada believes that every youngster growing up in Canada should have the chance to play hockey," said Hockey Canada chief operating officer Scott Smith. "As an organization, we know there are many Canadians who would like to give hockey a try, but haven't yet. Bauer's initiative will help us pinpoint strategies to engage youth in hockey and develop programs to make hockey a lifelong engagement for all Canadians."
Bauer Hockey is currently working with USA Hockey to develop a similar research pilot in the United States to complement the organization's successful membership development program and American Development Model, efforts which have positively impacted participation and retention rates among youth players. Over the next year, Bauer Hockey expects to roll out similar programs across the globe by working with the International Ice Hockey Federation as well as other national governing bodies.
Bauer Hockey's focus on increasing participation is the first pillar in its commitment to ensure the future of the sport. In addition to adding new players to hockey, Bauer Hockey is also focused on raising the overall level of safety awareness and education to ensure those that do play hockey remain with the sport for many years to come. Mark Messier, who joined forces with Bauer Hockey as a result of the company's recent acquisition of Cascade Sports, will take a leadership role in both growing participation and increasing player safety. Like Bauer Hockey, Messier has been heavily involved with elevating safety education and awareness, including through his work on The Messier Project.
"This is a win-win situation for everyone. In addition to a sport that is fun and offers all the benefits of physical fitness, hockey teaches life lessons that build character and develops good citizens," Messier said. "We are excited about this program because as we learn about new ways to grow the game and protect the players, more and more people will have the chance to experience this incredible sport."
Upon completion of the research studies, Bauer Hockey will announce its findings and work closely with each country's governing bodies to help build the necessary programs to address the barriers to entry and increase participation.