Thursday, November 13, 2014

Grassroots Growth = College Growth = Hockey Growth

By Jessi Pierce

What's one main thing you hear hockey fans groan and gripe about each season?

"No one is ever talking about or paying attention to hockey."

It's a pain we all know to be true. We feel jaded by the fact baseball (boring) and basketball (the worst) gain all the attention while hockey quietly sits in the background. It's due to the nicheness of our sport. It takes a unique breed to watch, play and overall enjoy hockey. Our numbers just aren't on par with those baseball, basketball and football players.

But that's starting to change.

Without question the sport of hockey is growing on all levels. Take college hockey for instance. There are more than 200 televised college games this year. That includes 60 Big Ten games across various platforms alone. Add in the NHL's deal with NBC and fans are hardly without a night of quality puck action.

The growth of hockey in the media mainstream is a big reason we are seeing the growth of the sport. And that growth itself comes back to the dedication to the grassroots programs. On Nov. 8, USA Hockey hosted it's annual Try Hockey For Free Day, outfitting youth players who have never played the sport with a non-expense day to learn and enjoy hockey. Each year the number of participants grows dramatically. This year was no different, though the numbers achieved are nothing short of amazing. USA Hockey recently reported that across the states, 14,767 kids came out to this year's Try Hockey For Free Day.

Read that: 14,767 NEW KIDS

That number is more than 2,000 what USA Hockey reported last year.

When those numbers grow, our college numbers grow. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan have seen high youth numbers for years. In exchange, not only are they producing Division I caliber players, but tickets are an easy sell for youth checking into the game in their own oversized Spartan, Badger or Gopher jersey.

Imagine more and more kids playing in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Ohio State and Penn State hockey fans would grow. Even better, think of what could happen in Iowa or Nebraska; Expansion on the rise.

So keep encouraging family and friends to embrace and engage in the game. Plant the seed and watch it grow.

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