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Hockey Day in America: USA Hockey’s growth taking off in unexpected places

Feb 17, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT

John Gaudreau, Jacob Trouba, Seth Jones AP

Today is Hockey Day in America, an all-day celebration of the sport throughout the United States. NBC will air nine hours of live coverage across its networks; here at PHT, we’re taking a look at stories of hockey’s impact across the country.

The U.S. hasn’t always been a world force when it comes to hockey, but these days it very much is.

Following Team USA’s second World Junior Championship win in four years, hockey is becoming a big deal in the States, thanks in large part to youngsters taking a shine to the game.

Over the past few years, USA Hockey has seen the growth of hockey in the country grow dramatically. Enrollment numbers have more than doubled since 1991-92, from just over 230,000 in that year to over 550,000 in 2011-12. When you factor in rising numbers of coaches and officials, the number of people actively participating in hockey is huge.

USA Hockey has come a long way in a short period of time, and we’re seeing that at the NHL level. When you turn back the clock to 1987-88 season, there were only 118 Americans having played at least one game in the league.

Now that number has more than doubled to 237 players.

Add in the fact that there are more NHL teams playing in the U.S. now than back then, and you’ve got a good explanation as to why the United States has become a force at the senior international level.

Much of it started at USA Hockey headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. and Ann Arbor, Mich. As Mike Modano tells Mike Morreale of, changing the world’s view of American hockey has been going on since the 80s.

“That perception they had about us … we were so young at the time that we wanted to change that perception. It was almost like the Europeans didn’t think we belonged on their level. We always wanted to prove to other countries that we could play with anyone.”

When it comes to the USA, you usually think of colder climate areas as the hockey hotbeds. But in recent years, non-traditional markets have become booming places for the game. As Chris Peters of United States of Hockey shared, growth in the Sun Belt states has been substantial.

California, for example, has seen enrollment rise 322 percent between 1990-91 and 2010-11. You only need to look at guys like California native Emerson Etem, a first-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2011, to see how well things are working. In 2010, Beau Bennett became the highest-drafted California-born player ever when Pittsburgh selected him 20th overall.

The same can be said of Florida (804 percent growth) and Atlanta, GA (478 percent). Sure the Thrashers are gone, but the Lightning and Panthers are still going strong and helping spur interest in the game.

Those benefits are paying off with prospects coming from all corners of the country.

As an example, look where many players from this year’s gold medal-winning WJC team came from. Seth Jones, who could possibly be the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, is from Texas. Rocco Grimaldi is from California, and Shayne Gostisbehere is from Florida.

It speaks to how wide-ranging the game has become, which can only mean good things for the United States heading into the future.

  1. eigglesnosuperbowls - Feb 17, 2013 at 9:08 AM

    The Philadelphia Flyers are the reason there is a HOCKEY DAY IN AMERICA viva la ED SYNDER !

  2. eigglesnosuperbowls - Feb 17, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    ED SNIDER the KING OF GROWING HOCKEY in AMERICA should not have his name misspelled !

    • hockeywithdrawal - Feb 17, 2013 at 9:25 AM

      Ed Snider is everything that is wrong with hockey in America. Hell Ed Snider is everything that is wrong with America.

      • eigglesnosuperbowls - Feb 17, 2013 at 12:30 PM

        1988 Ed Snider Philadelphia Flyers owner inducted into hockey hall of fame ! Penquins owners bankrupt DOooooooooooooooooooooooooCHaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaBAG !

      • hockeywithdrawal - Feb 18, 2013 at 8:02 AM

        Owners inducted into the hall of fame is a joke in and of itself. Ed Snider was the rich, spoiled child of a rich, spoiled family and has been trying to use family money to buy the world ever since. What sucks for the rest of this is that a-holes like Snider get a say in whether there is a hockey season or not, in the case of the CBA negotiations.

        I wonder, if the HOF knew Snider would go 38 years without a cup, if they’d still induct him.

      • eigglesnosuperbowls - Feb 18, 2013 at 4:44 PM

        Keep talking idiot

  3. 950003cups - Feb 17, 2013 at 10:03 AM

    USA hockey has grown tremendously. Even NJ can boast several current 1st round draft picks currently in the NHL. Guys like Bobby Ryan, John Carlson, James VanReimsdyk, and Bobby Sanguinetti. Maybe I missed a few more. I believe the biggest proponent of NJ Youth Hockey is NHL legend, NJ’s Jim Dowd.

  4. bmscalise - Feb 17, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    Pittsburgh, too, reflects this growth. The children of the generation who watched Mario play are finally coming of age. Ryan Malone and RJ Umberger were first hint. Then Brandon Saad, who’s become a regular for Chicago. And I think the most impressive: 4 kids who played youth hockey in Pittsburgh won gold in Ufa at the WJC – JT Miller (who’s already made his NHL debut), Vince Trocheck, Riley Barber, and MVP John Gibson.

    And it’s only going to get bigger. Sid’s done a ton individually to promote youth hockey in the city and get kids equipment. And the Pens and Flyers have joined forces as well to this end.

  5. dsg1616 - Feb 17, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    The growth in girls hockey has been even more impressive.

    • 950003cups - Feb 17, 2013 at 3:16 PM

      Girls hockey is fun to watch. They have great passing plays all the time. Obviously there is barely any hitting, but they skate very well.

      Basically it’s like watching the Swedish Elite League (sorry, had to say it LOL)

  6. ethanmacleod1685 - Feb 17, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Not from North America but found this article very interesting and inspiring

  7. bobzilla1001 - Feb 18, 2013 at 1:13 AM

    I can remember as a junior and senior in high school in Upstate New York, hearing the same things about a potential American soccer boom. That was 44 years ago.

  8. jamesdylanlaverance - Feb 19, 2013 at 10:16 PM

    Hi just here to share some info on the evolution of ice hockey.

    I’ve researched both american and canadian perspectives.

    Birthplace of early hockey games took place on long pond windsor ns near kings college circa 1800.Ice hurley and other forms of break shins ,wicket cricket, ice bandy, shinny, field hockey on ice,rugby,ice lacrosse,etc, were being combined.

    The full skate blade was invented by philadelphian ev bushnell in 1848.Early pucks were carved out of wood by the mic mac indians 1860.The first hockey sticks were carved in lindsay ontario 1852 by alexander rutherford sr.

    First indoor and semi organized game was 9 on 9 at the victoria skating rink montreal in 1875 by james creighton using previous halifax rules.

    First artificial skating rink was created by william newton in new york city 1870.First indoor arena in the us was the great chicago skating rink 1860.

    Earliest known arrival of game to usa 1856 at st.paul’s school at concord new hampshire.They played shinny to ice field hockey to ice polo.Montreal rules of hockey used by james conover at st.paul’s school nh in 1880-81.

    First game to mention postions and play 7 on 7 was at the montreal winter carnival festival 1883.

    Burlington vermont hosts that carnival in 1886 and played the first international hockey match (7 on7) between the montreal hc and local van ness house club.

    First organized league was in 1886-87 the amatuer hockey association in montreal.

    First pro league created in portage, michigan 1904 (iphl).Local business man james dee & canadian dentist doc gibson.

    Early hockey pants worn 1896 at detroit medical school.Modern goalie pads Duluth central high school circa 1903-04.Maybe earlier there.

    Early 6 0n 6 version of game washington park brooklyn 1908(aahl).

    Blocker invention lorne chabot canada 1920’s.Nhl goalie trapper mike karakas from aurora minnesota late 1930’s.Helmet frank goheen white bear lake minnesota 1910’,1920’s.

    Clarence abel(sault st marie, michigan).First us player to win stanley cup with the 1928 rangers.

    First parallel defense pairing.Coach alfred winsor harvard in 1911-12.

    George owen and coach william claflin of harvard invents full three man line change 1923.

    First goalie mask jaques plante 1959.

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