COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Hockey today announced a record 115,694 participants at the 8-and-Under level for the 2016-17 season, setting a new standard in the national governing body’s 80-year history.
The total includes a record number of first-year 8U participants (52,076), a record number of returning 8U participants (63,618) and a record number of female 8U participants (20,558).
The results marked USA Hockey’s third consecutive year-over-year 8U participation increase and seventh consecutive year exceeding 100,000 participants at the 8U level.
“We’re delighted to report another year of record growth in our 8U player pool and we’re excited about what that means for the future of American hockey,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey.
The record 8U participation total represented an increase of nearly 8,000 players, a boost due in part to a new Learn to Play program launched by the NHL and NHLPA with support from USA Hockey.
Measured by USA Hockey affiliate, the Potomac Valley, consisting of Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia (+1,230), showed the largest year-over-year 8U participation gains, followed by New York (+738) and California (+716).
Minnesota (18,002), Massachusetts (13,196) and New York (11,514) posted the largest 8U participation totals.
“Growing hockey at the grassroots level is our primary focus, so we’re definitely pleased to see another season of record-breaking growth. It’s a testament to our amazing volunteers and coaches nationwide who create the tremendous experiences for the kids,” said Pat Kelleher, USA Hockey assistant executive director for membership development, who will take over as the organization’s executive director June 10. “The record numbers also reflect the support of the NHL, its member clubs and the NHLPA, along with initiatives like Try Hockey For Free Days and our American Development Model, which provide age-appropriate fun and skill development for players throughout the country.”