I have always loved hockey and one of my greatest desires is to see the game grow in the United States. Having grown up loving the sport in a non-traditional hockey market, I get a little feisty when people say hockey doesn’t belong here, and further that hockey in America is an inferior product because we don’t have the same passion for the game.
Hockey participation has been steadily growing in the United States since the early 1990’s. Chris Peters did an excellent analysis of USA Hockey’s official membership record from all 50 states over a span of ten years. Despite the country being in a recession for part of that decade, participation in hockey – a sport widely acknowledged to be a rather pricey one to play – went up by 63,951 members between 2002-03 and 2012-13, and those numbers could be even higher if we were counting players not registered with USA Hockey.
While this rise in participation is due in some part to the expansion of the NHL, a lot of the credit goes to grass-roots efforts to grow the game. USA Hockey and their Hockey Weekend Across America program have played a huge role in cultivating a love for the game right here in the good ol’ USA. Tomorrow (February 28, 2014), marks the beginning of the event hosted by USA Hockey and rinks across the country for the seventh year running.
Hockey Weekend Across America lasts for 3 days (February 28-March 2), and each day focuses on a different theme.
“Wear Your Favorite Jersey Day” on Friday (February 28) is the day for fans to show off their hockey pride by wearing their prized hockey jerseys. USA Hockey’s Facebook and Twitter pages will accept photos from families, friends, and colleagues in search of the most passionate hockey fans.
Saturday (March 1) is “Try Hockey Day,” sponsored by the NHL.
Hundreds of rinks nationwide will host ‘Try Hockey for Free’ clinics, allowing thousands of children to experience hockey for the first time. To find a participating rink near you and register, visit TryHockeyforFree.com.
To cap off the weekend, “Celebrate Local Hockey Heroes” day on Sunday (March 2) encourages hockey programs nationwide to develop ways to honor their local hockey heroes. USA Hockey invites all to post pictures and stories on its website, Facebook and Twitter pages. The day also includes NBC’s Hockey Day in America coverage.
Fans 13 years of age and older can register for the Hockey Weekend Across America “Great Day for Hockey” Sweepstakes at HockeyWeekendAcrossAmerica.com. Three grand prize packages will be awarded, each including hockey skates, a hockey stick, a helmet/facemask combo and hockey gloves, courtesy of CCM. Second and third prizes will also be awarded with the drawing taking place.
Associations, teams and communities celebrating Hockey Weekend Across America are encouraged to submit their event plans to USA Hockey at HockeyWeekendAcrossAmerica.com.
At each of 14 NHL games in American cities during Hockey Weekend Across America, two young officials will have a chance to meet the NHL officials working the particular contest prior to the game and then stay to watch those NHL officials in action.
For full information surrounding the weekend, visit HockeyWeekendAcrossAmerica.com. Visitors can seek out activities around their community or across the country, participate in exciting giveaways and download promotional materials.
NOTES: Hockey Weekend Across America was created by USA Hockey in 2008 to engage the hockey community in celebrating the sport of hockey at all levels and exposing the sport to new audiences … Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports Program and Total Hockey are sponsors of Try Hockey for Free Day.