“There’s a dropoff,” Nicholson says. “There’s a concern there. It used to be 15-16 and our numbers are showing it’s younger now. We don’t have the stats. I don’t think anyone has the true stats of what that is. Everyone can speculate what they are but we’re still trying to figure that one out.
“No question cost is one. Ice time is one. You get to be 13 or so and you have a choice: do you want to be on the ice at 7 a.m. or do you want to be doing some other activity. And then there’s the bodychecking debate. Do you teach bodychecking as a skill? When should it be introduced?
“And then there’s also the streamlining. So many kids from a very young age dream about putting on the Team Canada jersey and playing in the Olympic Games or for the Toronto Maple Leafs. And now they’re not making the AAA teams, so they go off into another sport.”
Both men say it is important not to react too quickly on matters that are raised. Study is essential, then analysis, recommendation – Hockey Canada can only recommend to its branches – and, after that, results, which aren’t always as anticipated, as in the case of the introduction of the facial cage.
“We are not perfect,” Nicholson says. “We still have a lot more to do. The key for us is to say, hey, we are trying to make the game safer, which I really think we are, and trying to reduce costs.
“You’re not going to make everyone happy in this game. But we’ve got to make sure that we feel comfortable, that we’re trying to be the guardianship of the game and I can go to sleep at night and say ‘You know what? We’re doing the best we can.’”
Carson says: “I do not believe that the responsibility of Hockey Canada is to produce the next generation of professional hockey players. I believe that our responsibility is to produce the next generation of citizens.”
Adds Nicholson: “We want people to play for a lifetime.”