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2014 Hockey Weekend Across America Details

12/31/2013, 2:00am MST
By USAHockey.com

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – USA Hockey will lead the nation in the seventh annual Hockey Weekend Across America, presented by CCM, Feb. 28-March 2.

"Hockey Weekend Across America is one of the marquee events on the calendar each year," said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. "This year will be unique as we'll celebrate Hockey Weekend Across America the weekend immediately following the conclusion of the Olympic Winter Games."

Each of the three days of Hockey Weekend Across America features a special theme.

"Wear Your Favorite Jersey Day" on Friday, Feb. 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.

On Saturday, March 1, as part of Try Hockey Day, sponsored by the NHL, hundreds of rinks nationwide will host "Try Hockey for Free" clinics, sponsored by Liberty Mutual and Total Hockey, allowing thousands of children to experience hockey for the first time. Arenas interested in hosting an event and players wishing to take part should visit HockeyWeekendAcrossAmerica.com for more details.

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 Facebook and Twitter pages. The day also includes NBC's Hockey Day in America coverage.

Fans 13 years of age and older can begin registering for the Hockey Weekend Across America "Great Day for Hockey" Sweepstakes tomorrow (Jan. 1) at HockeyWeekendAcrossAmerica.com. Three grand prize packages will be awarded, each including hockey skates, hockey stick, helmet/facemask combo and hockey gloves, courtesy of CCM. Second and third prizes will also be awarded with the drawing taking place.

At each of 15 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. Associations and teams celebrating Hockey Weekend Across America are encouraged to submit their event plans to USA Hockey on this site.

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.

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For Hockey, a Landscape That Now Includes Palm Trees

02/17/2011, 11:30am MST
By Jeff Z. Klein

For some American hockey players at the highest level, memories of childhood are filled with idyllic days on frozen ponds and outdoor rinks.

But for a growing number, childhood memories are framed by palm trees, warm weather and rooting for N.H.L. teams that many Northerners disdain as a failed Sun Belt experiment.

Those memories reflect the evolving nature of the game in the United States on the eve of Hockey Weekend Across America, a celebration of one of the nation’s fastest-growing sports.

“Some of my fondest memories are from when I was 6, in the car with the family and lugging our bags to Pasadena Ice Skating Center,” said Angela Ruggiero, 31, a four-time Olympian.

Ruggiero also remembered “being a fan, watching the L.A.Kings’ run in ’92-’93, almost winning the Stanley Cup” — proof that the 1988 arrival of Wayne Gretzky in Southern California really did give rise to a warm-weather generation of players.

Participation throughout the United States has increased from 195,000 male and female players of all ages registered with USA Hockey in 1990-91 to 475,000 in 2009-10. Earlier this year, it registered its 100,000th player at the 8-and-younger level.

On opening night of the N.H.L. this year, and for the first time in league history, more than 20 percent of league rosters were composed of American players, representing 25 states.

According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, ice hockey is the second-fastest-growing sport in the country since 2008, behind fast-pitch softball.

And though participation has stagnated or fallen in traditional hockey areas like Michigan, Massachusetts and New York, it has skyrocketed elsewhere.

“Hockey has seen explosive growth in the United States in the last few years, especially in historically nontraditional hockey hotbeds,” said Brian Burke, general manager of the United States men’s Olympic team and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “We will be dropping that label soon, very soon, I believe. We have elite athletes playing hockey in almost every state now.”

In the Southeast, there were 4,462 registered players in 1990-91; in 2009-10, there were 39,807. There was similar growth in the Pacific and Rocky Mountain regions.

“Unlike after the Miracle on Ice in 1980, when most players were from Minnesota, Massachusetts or Michigan, it’s now a national game, much more than ever before,” said Dave Ogrean, the executive director of USA Hockey, referring to the United States Olympic team’s victory against the Soviet Union at Lake Placid.

The biggest event this weekend takes place Sunday: the fourth Hockey Day in America. Beginning at noon and continuing to 6 p.m., NBC will televise two N.H.L. games interspersed with features on the game across the country.

On Friday, fans are encouraged to wear their favorite jerseys. On Saturday, more than 200 rinks in 48 states will offer try-hockey-for-free events, seeking to introduce the game to an estimated 4,000 children.

Since USA Hockey began keeping registration statistics in 1998-99, North Carolina has had the highest per capita rate of hockey growth at 112 percent, followed by Georgia (86 percent), Tennessee (80), Florida (58), Kentucky (57), Virginia (55) and Texas (49).

Except for Kentucky, all those have a relatively new or newly popular N.H.L. team in the state or nearby.

The temperate West Coast has seen a similar surge.

“Since the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks arrived in the early 1990s, the number of registered players in the Pacific region has increased by 240 percent,” Ogrean said. “The fact that we now have N.H.L. teams in so many parts of the country has been so great for us.”

The growth rates in Virginia and the District of Columbia (the highest at 683 percent, but with only 742 registered players last year) might have been spurred by the recent success of the Washington Capitals. North Carolina has the Hurricanes, based in Raleigh since 1999. Florida’s nearly 11,000 players can root for the Tampa Bay Lightning and theFlorida Panthers; both arrived in the mid-’90s. A majority of Texas’ nearly 11,000 players are from the Dallas area, where the Stars landed in 1993, fueling the construction of several ice rinks, six built by the club itself.

“I look at the arrival of the Stars in Dallas as kind of Year Zero for hockey in Texas,” said Ted Skinner, president of the Texas Amateur Hockey Association.

Although a vast majority of players still come from traditional hockey states, only two of those states have had significant growth over the last decade.

Pennsylvania’s nearly 27,549 players represent a 17 percent increase, helped by increases in youth and adult registration around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Minnesota’s 53,450 players — the highest number in the country — represent 13 percent growth, spurred perhaps by the innovative Fair Play initiative, which has sharply reduced dangerous fouls in youth hockey since 2004.

Others have not fared so well. The 43,445 playing in Massachusetts represent a 5 percent drop since 1998-99 when measured against the state’s population. Michigan’s 51,404 represent an 8 percent decline and New York’s 46,389 a 10 percent drop.

Meanwhile, as Ogrean noted, the top levels of the game are experiencing a geographic integration never seen before.

Last summer, Jason Zucker of Las Vegas became the first Nevadan taken in the N.H.L. draft. He played for the United States at the world junior championships last month, alongside Mitch Callahan of Whittier, Calif., and Emerson Etem of Long Beach, Calif., who grew up playing roller hockey at the Y.M.C.A.

In 1998-99, there were no Alaskans playing in the N.H.L, but now Brandon Dubinsky of the Rangers is one of about a dozen current or former players from the state.

“We got the whole igloo thing and the polar bears and all that jazz,” said Dubinsky, 24, remembering the reaction his youth travel team got at tournaments in the Lower 48, when Alaskans playing hockey still seemed exotic.

Another Ranger, Mike Sauer of Sartell, Minn., had the more traditional childhood memory of “running a faucet all night so we could flood the pond behind our house.”

Frozen ponds in the North and roller hockey in the California sun are both now part of the fabric of hockey in America.

Read the article on New York Times

2014 Hockey Weekend Across America Dates Set For Feb. 28-Mar. 2

04/19/2013, 10:15am MDT
By USAHockey.com

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.

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