Researchers at the University of Calgary will be taking the next few years to show that participation in Canada’s winter pastime helps everyone from every background feel at home here.

The project, called Multicultural Common Spaces: A Study of Canadian Hockey Arenas of Social Integration, aims to speak with hockey players and hockey fans of all ages to learn more about the impact participation in the sport has on improving the Canadian identity.

Martine Dennie, a third-year PhD candidate in sociology, is one of the researchers working on the project and says she also wants to prove that the game of hockey can help immigrants develop their own sense of national identity.

“A lot of people in Canada shape their lives around hockey. A lot of families, a lot of children play hockey but also as hockey fans, a lot of people watch it and just live their lives around the sport.”

One of the objectives in the study is to see how people from diverse backgrounds come together through the sport.

“People talk about lifelong friendships that they’ve made through hockey. It’s the socializing and the people at the rink. Even for just the kids who are playing, they develop friendships on the ice and maybe next year they’re playing with different people but they maintain that friendship.”

Hyun Hee Lim moved to Calgary from South Korea 20 years ago and says hockey has been a very positive experience for her family.

“When you come here, it’s an instant community. You see grandparents, you see parents and also you see the kids playing. It’s been a very, very great experience for us.”

She admits she knew nothing about hockey before she came here.

“I didn’t even know Wayne Gretzky; my husband was nuts about that.”

Lim says she would recommend getting involved in hockey to any new Canadian.

“Winter is here for a long time, especially this week. I think it’s part of being a Canadian.”

Others who attend games at hockey rinks in Calgary say there is a true camaraderie that can only be found in the arena.

“Everybody’s here for a common goal. No pun intended. We all have children in hockey and we’re all from different walks of life and just sort of meet in a common place. It’s just a nice place to be, actually,” says hockey dad Stephen Price.

He says he’s been coming to rinks all over the city for 15 years now and even though his kids are now in adult leagues, he still comes out to watch them.

“There are people that I’ve known for 15 years at the arena and that’s a big part of hockey I think. You’re just all here to watch your children grow and develop and hopefully have a lot of fun and exercise playing.”

The same research is also being conducted in Halifax and by next fall, they’ll focus on Toronto.

Dennie says she wants to hear from new Canadians who come from all sorts of different countries, including those that don’t necessarily have the natural climate for the sport.

“There’s a story of a child who never skated. The family was from India and just came to Canada,” she says. “The father put the skates on the little boy and picked him up and put him on the ice… the coach took him and off he went and he’s been playing hockey ever since.”

The team is still looking for 20 to 30 participants and they could be anyone, from newcomers to Canada and visible minorities to families with lots of children who play hockey.

You can schedule an interview to speak with Dennie by contacting her through email.

(With files from Chris Epp)