Why Is Ice Hockey More Popular Than Field Hockey? (Everything You Should Know)

Ice hockey, field hockey, roller hockey, sledge hockey, street hockey… 

The list goes on.

There are a wide range of “hockey” variations—even outdoor hockey and knee hockey!

But, not all variations are the same.

The two most popular within the mix are ice hockey and field hockey.

So, why is ice hockey more popular than field hockey in North America?

And what about Europe? Which one is more popular there?

In this article, we’ll answer those questions and many more like them. 

Let’s begin!

Here’s Why Ice Hockey Is More Popular Than Field Hockey:

There are two main reasons ice hockey is more popular than field hockey in North America: The first is because ice hockey originated in North America, while field hockey originated in the UK. The second is due to the heavy promotion of ice hockey on television by the NHL and broadcasting networks.

What’s More Popular in North America: Ice Hockey or Field Hockey?

In terms of the number of fans—ice hockey is much more popular than field hockey in North America.

In fact, ice hockey is considered to be one of the big four in sports—alongside American Football, Baseball, and Basketball.

On the other hand, field hockey isn’t as widely watched in North America. The truth is, field hockey doesn’t even crack the top 10 most popular sports in America.

While field hockey is beat out in popularity by other sports like soccer, tennis, golf, and rugby, it does crack the top 20 overall.

It’s important to note that even though ice hockey is more popular than field hockey overall in North America—field hockey has more registered players.

For instance, in 2018, the US had 1.46 million registered field hockey players.

However, in the same year, there were only 562,000 registered ice hockey players in the United States.

That means there were nearly 3 times as many field hockey players than ice hockey players in the US—yet ice hockey is still more popular for those watching the game.

What’s More Popular Around the World: Ice Hockey or Field Hockey?

There are over 2 billion total hockey fans in the world—making it the 3rd most popular sport behind soccer and cricket.

However, this statistic can be misleading—as it includes both ice hockey and field hockey.

And, while this won’t come as a surprise to many Americans, ice hockey is more popular as field hockey around the globe. 

The truth is, ice hockey is much more popular than ice hockey throughout the world.

But, there’s a caveat. This is only true in terms of the number of fans worldwide.

While ice hockey is much more popular to watch around the world, field hockey is more popular than ice hockey in one big way:

There are more registered field hockey players than ice hockey players worldwide.

Shocking, right?

In fact, people play field hockey in over 100 countries throughout the world. 

The same can’t be said for ice hockey due to one main factor: most countries around the world don’t get cold enough to maintain ice in their winter months.

On the other hand, field hockey can be played in any climate—hot or cold. The temperature needed to play the game is the main reason field hockey is more popular to play globally than ice hockey.

Warmer weather simply makes it easier for the majority of the world’s population to have access to the game.

Why Isn’t Field Hockey as Popular As Ice Hockey?

The truth is, field hockey just isn’t as popular as ice hockey in North America.

But, how could this be when modern field hockey and ice hockey were invented around the same time in the 1800s?

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Origins

The modern version of field hockey originated in the British Isles in the mid-1800s. This was around the same time that ice hockey was invented.

So, why would ice hockey be much more popular in North America then?

The main reason is the location.

While field hockey originated in the UK, ice hockey originated in Montreal, Canada.

This means both games naturally are more popular in respective regions due to geography.

2. Television Time

The second reason ice hockey is more popular than field hockey in North America is simply due to television time.

Ice hockey is much more visible to the world due to its major television coverage in the US and around the world.

The NHL has tight-knit partnerships with the biggest sports broadcasting networks in the US. Plus, they make it easy for fans to tune in. They also make it easy for betting companies to profit off its popularity.

In 1992, the NHL was offered its first television deal to show live games in the US and Canada. Since then media coverage has grown exponentially, empowering the sport to take off in the continent and beyond.

3. The Business of the Sports

The third reason is closely related to the second.

Television deals make room for major revenue for the NHL. This means the best players in the world will try to migrate to the US and Canada to play for big money rather than play in their home countries where the pay is much smaller.

For instance, in the UK, the average salary is about $25,000 USD per year. Meanwhile, the average NHL contract is about $3 million dollars per year.

Field hockey simply hasn’t had the same monetary appeal to TV sponsors. And, due to the lack of deals, it has been pushed to the wayside in terms of television coverage. This means field hockey players around the globe aren’t as enticed to move to North America to promote the game.

Field hockey has had a push to gain more popularity in recent years. In 2017, the FIH (International Hockey Federation) Pro League was created to give field hockey players a chance to shine on the field and the television.

While the league has had some success, it’s still got a long way to go. In fact, the record number of spectators in attendance at a professional game was 11,500. While this may seem like a lot, it’s nearly half the amount of the average NHL game.

4. Different Styles of Play

Even though the sports share the same name, there are prominent differences.

The most obvious difference between the two sports is the surface they play on. One is outside on a grassy field. The other is played on ice.

Due to the nature of the surface it’s played on—ice hockey is naturally a much faster-paced game.

Ice hockey players rip up and down the ice firing shots at the opponents net much more frequently than in field hockey.

Plus, ice hockey is much more physical than field hockey. Field hockey isn’t a contact sport. On the other hand, hitting is encouraged and contact is made every game of ice hockey. Not to mention—one major step up in terms of physicality is the fact that fighting is allowed in ice hockey.

Overall, the faster game, higher scores, and physicality of the game all result in a much more exciting sport to watch.

Why Is Field Hockey More Popular in Europe Than the USA?

The main reason field hockey is more popular in Europe than the USA is mainly due to origin.

Field hockey was invented in the British Isles in the 1800s. On the other hand, ice hockey was invented in Canada.

Naturally, more field hockey leagues have been created and televised in Europe resulting in a larger fanbase.

On the other hand, ice hockey is much more popular in the USA because it took off there in the 1800s. This resulted in the game growing very fast locally (in North America). 

Why Has Ice Hockey Not Overtaken Field Hockey in the UK?

Ice hockey hasn’t yet overtaken field hockey in the UK.

However, ice hockey is growing in popularity.

According to Statista, the number of registered ice hockey players in Great Britain rose from 4,901 in 2011 to 11,148 in 2021. 

In just 10 years, ice hockey players have doubled in Britain.

The reality is, ice hockey may never overtake field hockey in popularity in the UK. But, it certainly is gaining steam and will likely continue to grow over time.

Looking for more answers to the most common hockey questions? Be sure to check out our other popular blog posts: Is There a Size Limit for Hockey Goalies, Why Is Icing in Hockey Bad, and What’s the Best Height for Ice Hockey!






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