Skip to content

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 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.

Latest Posts
  1. Sarich opens up about scary cycling accident, aftermath

    Aug 29, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Colorado Avalanche v Ottawa Senators Getty Images

    “It’s amazing how an accident like this puts things in perspective.”

  2. It’s Boston Bruins day on PHT

    Aug 29, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Detroit Red Wings at Boston Bruins Reuters

    They won the Presidents’ Trophy, but fell in the second round.

  3. Johnston: Teammates need to do more to help Crosby

    Aug 28, 2014, 9:33 PM EDT

    Sidney Crosby Getty Images

    The new coach wants the Penguins to ‘lessen the load.’

  4. Poll: Will the Sabres surprise critics this season?

    Aug 28, 2014, 7:11 PM EDT

    Tyler Myers Getty Images

    They have a lot of players on their roster with something to prove.

  5. Ryan White has surgery on pectoralis muscle

    Aug 28, 2014, 5:59 PM EDT

    Ryan White Getty Images

    There’s no timetable for his return.

  6. Under Pressure: Mikhail Grigorenko

    Aug 28, 2014, 4:47 PM EDT

    Mikhail Grigorenko Getty Images

    The former first round pick is entering the last season of his entry-level contract.

  7. NBC’s Dan Patrick: NHL to Vegas by 2016

    Aug 28, 2014, 2:29 PM EDT

    Las Vegas Getty Images

    Arizona or Carolina could relocate according to the host.

  8. No contract talks between Milano and Blue Jackets

    Aug 28, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT

    2014 NHL Draft - Round 1 Getty Images

    Milano clears the air on deal with Columbus.

  9. AHL gets drug testing program

    Aug 28, 2014, 12:36 PM EDT

    AHL logo

    To be implemented for 2014-15 season.

  10. Video: Ducks’ Ryan Kesler’s hilarious Ice Bucket Challenge

    Aug 28, 2014, 12:09 PM EDT

    Ryan Kesler AP

    Calls out former coaches Marc Crawford, Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella

  11. Looking to make the leap: Sam Reinhart

    Aug 28, 2014, 11:12 AM EDT

    Sam Reinhart AP

    After a solid junior career, hopes to make the Sabres as an 18-year-old.

  12. Report: Tomas Kaberle ‘in line’ to attend Devils’ camp

    Aug 28, 2014, 10:02 AM EDT

    Tomas Kaberle AP

    Last appeared in 10 games with the Montreal Canadiens during the 2012-13 season.

  13. Ex-NHLer Poeschek faces assault charge

    Aug 28, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Court House

    He is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 9.

  14. It’s Buffalo Sabres day on PHT

    Aug 28, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Cody Hodgson Getty Images

    They’re in the middle of a rebuilding process.

  15. Eichel, like McDavid, will showcase his skills in Buffalo this fall

    Aug 27, 2014, 10:49 PM EDT

    Jack Eichel Getty Images

    Of course, neither will be wearing a Sabres’ uniform – not yet at least.

  16. Boston extends affiliation with Providence, Pandolfo named development coach

    Aug 27, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT

    Jay Pandolfo Getty Images

    They’ve also appointed Don Sweeney as the AHL team’s new general manager.

  17. Poll: Was 13-14 a fair representation of what Detroit was capable of?

    Aug 27, 2014, 8:28 PM EDT

    Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg Getty Images

    It matters given that they will start next season with a largely unchanged roster.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. J. Harding (1666)
  2. C. Price (1646)
  3. M. Staal (1597)
  4. J. Giguere (1487)
  5. A. Ekblad (1474)