WITH hockey both on television and the minds of Winnipeggers, a new poll says we're more in love with our national game than ever.
A study from MasterCard Canada released Wednesday found 83 per cent of Canadians find time each week to watch hockey on TV and in arenas across the country.
"Culturally, hockey is one of the most significant reasons why people spend time together," said Milos Vranesevic, director of brand marketing and sponsorship for MasterCard.
The poll found 18 per cent of parents in Manitoba and Saskatchewan spend between one and 10 hours per week supporting their children's hockey, the highest figure in the country. Five per cent of parents in the two neighbouring provinces spend more than 10 hours per week watching their children play, driving them to games and practices or helping at fundraisers, also the highest numbers nationwide.
Manitoba and Saskatchewan parents are also in the mix when it comes to shelling out money on hockey, too, as 11 per cent spend more than $1,000 every year. Only in Alberta, with 12 per cent exceeding $1,000 annually, could parents be found getting off their wallets more often.
Vranesevic said while the pros garner much of our attention, particularly during the National Hockey League playoffs, the amateur ranks actually put more butts in arena seats.
He said more than nine million fans went through the turnstiles of 55 Canadian Hockey League teams this past season. Many thousands more are already descending upon Brandon for the Memorial Cup, the national junior hockey championship, which kicks off this weekend.
Vranesevic said the Brandon Wheat Kings are attempting to become the first Manitoba winner of the Memorial Cup -- which he called North America's toughest championship because of the rigorous pre-tournament playoffs -- since the 1959 Winnipeg Braves.
"It's going to be huge this year," he said.
Vranesevic said MasterCard is a sponsor and business partner of five of the six NHL franchises in Canada -- all except the Calgary Flames -- and the company has been following the potential relocation of the Phoenix Coyotes to Winnipeg.
The survey of adult Canadians was taken during the first week of April and was conducted by Random House. It is considered accurate within 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.