Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Horton, Sean

Second Advisor

Dixon, Jess


Development; Hockey; Practice; Sampling; Specialization




Theoretical frameworks such as the Developmental Model for Sport Participation encourage multi-sport participation at a young age, and many practitioners warn that early sport specialization may be associated with several negative physical and psychosocial consequences. Despite this advice, the lure of extrinsic rewards has caused children to specialize in one sport at the expense of other activities at an alarming rate. The purpose of this study was to understand the developmental histories of current and former Ontario Hockey League players. Fifteen participants, completed quantitative retrospective interviews, detailing their past sport and recreational activities. The accumulated hours of deliberate practice reported by participants increased throughout the ages of 6 to 16, as did the number of hours competing in organized hockey games. The reported number of deliberate play hours peaked at 9 years of age and decreased thereafter. Additionally, participants played a combined 16 sports other than hockey, and accumulated the most hours in these sports at 12 years old. Using a three-point scale, participants were considered ‘highly-specialized’ at 14 years old, however quantitative indicators suggest that this may have occurred at the age of 12 years old. Relative to previous research, participants of the current study appear to spend more time practicing hockey, while ceasing hockey-specific play and other sports at a younger age. Furthermore, despite a diverse sport history, participants initiated hockey competition prior to the age suggested by Hockey Canada, and show high levels of commitment to hockey as young as 9 years old.