The newly created USA Hockey Membership Development Department has the unique charge of growing participation in hockey among those already smitten with the game and those who’ve never put blade to ice.
Pat Kelleher, who was named in June as the assistant executive director of the department, has set ambitious goals for the department and hopes to help grow hockey and USA Hockey’s membership through focusing on the sport at the grassroots level.
“At the end of the day it takes people at the local grassroots level to actually do the work,” he said. “We need to keep putting resources in their hands.”
The new department won’t have the spotlight in a way that U.S. National Teams do, but through the efforts of USA Hockey and its volunteers, you can expect to see its handiwork at a rink near you in the very immediate future, Kelleher said.
Kelleher sat down with www.usahockey.com and answered a few key questions about USA Hockey’s newest department:
USAH.com: What will the Membership Development Department do for USA Hockey?
Kelleher: Grow participation in hockey. That’s probably the easiest way to put it. No. 1 will be the participation in membership, which will be kids playing hockey across the country, that’s the primary focus.
USAH.com: What will be your role?
Kelleher: To begin with it will be coordinating and gathering as much information about what’s going on around the country. We know people are doing good things to grow hockey in their respective markets. We need to take all that information and create the best practices from across the country and spread that information. Whether it’s a rink owner and operator or a youth hockey president or anyone involved with hockey. We will work with anyone who can help grow our game.
USAH.com: What are the department goals?
Kelleher: First, foremost and always, the No. 1 goal will be to help youth hockey associations, clubs and rinks get more kids involved playing the game.
We have another big one to start with and that’s to hit 600,000 overall members within USA Hockey by the end of the 08-09 hockey season. We’ve been around 580,000 for a number of years now so that gives us a good target. Reaching 600,000 would give everyone in USA Hockey something to brag about.
USAH.com: What’s going on with the department right now and what’s coming up?
Kelleher: We have a job posted to bring in a second person in the department sometime in September. We just met with the AHL and all their teams to start forming some relationships and networks there and we’ll meet with the NHL and try to do the same thing there. Those teams are doing things that we need to try to capitalize on and lend more support to.
The big thing initially is to help knock down barriers to entry. We know cost is a factor so if we can work with the One Goal Association or rinks or clubs to make it easier for kids to get on the ice without a big investment in equipment. Once we get them on the ice, we think they’ll fall in love with the game.
USAH.com: How will people see the department in their community?
Kelleher: Hopefully it’ll be seen through the efforts of their local associations and their local rinks. We will lead the charge, but we’re going to rely on people in the field that do this sort of thing.
USAH.com: Finish a sentence that starts with ‘A good year ends with’
Kelleher: A good year ends with more kids and families enjoying hockey … and 600,000 members in USA Hockey.