Skating on Thin Ice: Global Sports Warming
|May 24, 2012||Posted by ReubenFB under Geo-Analysis|
On Tuesday, the LA Kings continued their playoff tear by dispatching the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 in overtime , advancing to the Stanley Cup and winning our hearts through top-grade social-media snarkiness . Los Angeles – with an average daily high of 75° F – and Phoenix – average of 87° – are not exactly considered the breadbasket of North American hockey. As John D’Anna of the Arizona Republic : “Let’s get something straight. That there should be ice hockey in the desert is not the least bit preposterous.”
This feigned surprise that warm cities have hockey comes up most playoffs nowadays, but is it measurably true that good hockey, once so dominated by Canada, has really been moving south? To test this out we did a simple calculation: if you take all the wins in a given hockey season (ties ignored), what is the average daily high temperature of the WINNING team’s home city? Looking at every season since 1917, here’s what we get:
Sure enough, the winning team’s average daily high temp. has increased an impressive 10.9° F since 1917. This is largely due to three major periods of expansion into the US, accompanied by some contraction in Canada. The figure hasn’t budged much since 1997, during which the Dallas Stars (1999), Tampa Bay Lightning (2004), and Anaheim Ducks (2007) became the first three truly warm-weather cities to win the Cup.
But here’s a twist. Let’s see what happens when we make the exact same calculation for the NFL, dating back to when teams first began to play a consistent number of games in 1935:
Since 1935, the average temperature of the city of the winning team in the NFL has gone up 7.2° F. During that same period the average for NHL games went up 5.8° F.
So has hockey moved to warmer areas in the last century? Sure. Just like football, or any other sport, or really any other activity you can possibility think of, because what we’re really seeing in these charts is that Americans (and immigrants to America) have for a long time been migrating to warmer parts of the country. Since 1940, the population of the United States has increased by 134%. Texas has increased by 294%, California by 441%, and Florida by 896%. Arizona, which just celebrated its 100th birthday , has grown an insane 1184%.
If you told one of the 65,414 people living in Phoenix in 1940 that someday his desert city would have a professional ice hockey team, he’d say you were crazy. If you told him it would have a professional football team, or baseball team, or opera company , he’d say the exact same thing.