Feb 17, 2013, 6:00 AM EST
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 NHL.com, 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.
Mar 8, 2014, 2:42 PM EST
He might not be ready for the start of the playoffs either, should Columbus get that far.
Mar 8, 2014, 1:58 PM EST
Guess who holds that record?
Mar 8, 2014, 1:16 PM EST
The Capitals drafted him in 2010, but he’s been playing in the KHL.
Mar 8, 2014, 12:58 PM EST
It will be his first start with Washington.
Mar 8, 2014, 12:15 PM EST
They were key players in Finland’s bronze medal run in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:32 AM EST
The Lightning are trying to get out of a rut just days after trading Martin St. Louis.
Mar 8, 2014, 10:40 AM EST
He’s open to continuing his career as a backup goaltender.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:51 AM EST
Ottawa has been underwhelming this season.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:03 AM EST
He hasn’t taken a penalty yet this season.
Mar 8, 2014, 2:05 AM EST
Marc-Andre Fleury was busy in this one.
Mar 8, 2014, 1:11 AM EST
On a special night for one of the franchise’s greats.
Mar 8, 2014, 12:24 AM EST
This is just…sick. But awesome, too.
Mar 8, 2014, 12:05 AM EST
Played nine seasons in Calgary.
Mar 7, 2014, 11:19 PM EST
Last shift came late in first period.
Mar 7, 2014, 11:03 PM EST
Goals, goals and more goals in this one.
Mar 7, 2014, 10:28 PM EST
His first NHL start since Feb. 8.
Mar 7, 2014, 10:02 PM EST
Remember that blockbuster trade the other day?
Mar 7, 2014, 9:27 PM EST
Just keeps on going.
Mar 7, 2014, 9:04 PM EST
Happened 10 years ago Saturday.
Mar 7, 2014, 8:26 PM EST
Ottawa in a battle to make the playoffs.
- Ryan Murray has knee surgery, likely done for season 0
- Washington finally signs top prospect Kuznetsov 16
- Roberto Luongo records the shutout in first game back with Panthers 27
- Steve Moore remains shocked, disgusted about Todd Bertuzzi attack 63
- Canucks’ Kassian gets three games for boarding Dillon 27
- TGIF: Why Lightning fans can be upset with St. Louis 32
- Goalie nods: Luongo’s first game back with Panthers, Neuvirth makes Sabres debut 14
- Report: Kuznetsov terminated KHL deal, headed to Washington 21
- Canucks’ Bieksa: ‘If this isn’t rock bottom, I don’t know what is’ 34
- Luongo has Twitter fun at Canucks’ expense 36
- Canucks trade Luongo to Panthers (93)
- BLOCKBUSTER: Lightning trade St. Louis to Rangers for Callahan (82)
- Kings make splash, acquire Gaborik from Columbus (72)
- Report: Canucks want center, top prospect and first-rounder for Kesler (68)
- Sabres announce Pat LaFontaine resigns as president of hockey operations (66)