If you are currently attired in torn sack cloth and covered in ashes as a result of Canada's recent denouement on the ice of the World Junior Hockey Championships, it may be best to get used to it.

Canada is not, of course, suddenly going to be lacking in training and expertise in hockey. What is and will be lacking, however, are children . . . which in turn means there will be a smaller pool of potential hockey stars to choose from.

As Statistics Canada reported a couple of months ago, the number of Canadian children aged five to 14 has decreased by nearly 10% to just 3.72 million—that's the lowest population level in that demographic group since 1988. And that means 10% fewer hockey players competing for spots on Canada's national junior team in the years ahead. Actually, it might not be quite so bad for the boys as for the girls, as Statistics Canada data also indicates that among children under 15 there are currently about 130,000 (or 3%) more boys than girls.

Add to that the fact that in the past generation the participation rate of children in sports has declined from 57% to 51% and, well, the prospects don't get any brighter, do they? Oh, and the majority of those kids is not playing hockey—soccer is the preferred activity now.

There are two major contributing factors to this demographic decline, according to Statscan. One is that during the period in question there were not quite as many women around of child-bearing age as there were in the previous generation. The other is that as we entered an era in which having children was a clear matter of choice, more and more women chose not to have them, and the birth rate plunged to 1.6 children per woman. The replacement birth rate is 2.1.

The good news is that this decline should only last through the end of the decade, as the birth rate in recent years has been slightly increasing. And the moral of the story is: you reap what you sow.