USA Hockey recently unveiled its registration numbers for the 2010-11 season. Let’s just say it was good news for hockey in the United States.
During the 2010-11 campaign, USA Hockey had 500,579 hockey players registered throughout the country. It is the first time in USA Hockey’s history that the organization has eclipsed the 500,000-player mark.
In addition to surpassing a major milestone, USA Hockey’s player membership spiked by nearly 5.5%. There are 25,987 more players this year than there were last. It is the largest increase in membership since USA Hockey’s registration ballooned from 303,611 in 1993-94 to 350,077 in 1994-95 (15.3% jump).
Perhaps the most encouraging numbers produced by USA Hockey was that it saw its largest gains in the 6 & Under category. There were 5,446 more 6 & Under players in 2010-11 than there were in 2009-10, an 11.1% increase. Retention is always hard, but getting a higher volume of kids involved in the game at an earlier age is a great head start.
In addition to tremendous growth at the 6 & Under level, the 7- and 8-year-old group also picked up some steam in 2010-11 as its membership increased by 7.7%.
Adult hockey membership has been on the climb across the country as well. This past hockey season was no different. Adult hockey membership spiked by 10.9% nationally thanks to 14,712 additional players signing up in 2010-11.
Another piece of encouraging news was the fact that girls’ and women’s hockey had a nice growth spurt in 2010-11 as well. Female membership was up by 6.49% overall. The girls’ 8 & Under (+10.4%) and 6 & Under (+14.6%) groups were big contributors to the growth as well.
Looking at USA Hockey’s state-by-state numbers there is a lot more to get excited about. Coming up after the jump, a look at some of the highlights including a surprise in Michigan, the Stanley Cup Effect in Illinois, Pennsylvania’s hockey boom and more.
When looking at the state-by-state breakdowns there are a few things that pop out. We’ll get to some of the most notable figures from around the country in just a second. First, a look at the big picture:
Of the 50 states, only seven had fewer members in 2010-11 than in 2009-10. Hawaii went from 11 to seven (-36.4% if you were wondering). Mississippi got knocked down from 259 to 245 (-5.4%). Oregon slid from 804 to 777 (-3.4%) Idaho dipped from 2,958 to 2,917 (-1.4%). Rhode Island experienced a slight fall from 4,641 to 4,611 (-0.6%). New Hampshire had a similar drop, sliding from 6,120 to 6,092 (-0.5%).
None of these numbers are really alarming, nor are they surprising. For the more hockey-rich states of Rhode Island and New Hampshire, the drops were essentially insignificant.
Twenty-seven states experienced increases greater than the nationwide mark of 5.5%.
The states with the highest increase in percentage included:
Arkansas — 216 in 2009-10 to 277 in 2010-11 (28.2% increase)
Kansas — 1,574 to 1,934 (22.9%)
Nevada — 940 to 1,146 (21.9%)
Iowa — 2,549 to 2,979 (16.9%)
Delaware — 1,049 to 1,216 (15.9%)
It’s pretty impressive to see such growth in five states that are far from hockey hotbeds. That’s a good sign for the future of the game in those states.
Now let’s take a look at some of the more interesting numbers…
Perhaps the biggest surprise to me when looking up and down the rankings was seeing hockey in Michigan grow by 5.5% in the last year. Perhaps no state has been as ravaged by the struggling economy as Michigan, and local hockey has certainly taken a hit because of it.
With 54,251 players registered in the state in 2010-11, Michigan boasts its highest membership since 2005-06. Michigan may still not be where it was in the early 2000s when it had the highest membership in the U.S. by far.
Minnesota may be the State of Hockey, but up until 2008-09, Michigan had more registered hockey players in its state consistently. As the population shrunk during the recession, so did hockey membership unsurprisingly. However, Michigan is inching closer to reaching the numbers of its past, and is rapidly gaining on Minnesota.
The Gopher State had 54,325 registered players in 2010-11, a mere 74 more than Michigan (For the record, Minnesota experienced 1.6% growth this year, which is not bad considering how many people already play hockey there).
Whether or not Michigan overtakes Minnesota is immaterial at this point. The fact that the Wolverine State experienced 5.5% in the last year, after two consecutive seasons in which membership dipped, is substantial.
Michigan’s growth has come thanks to a big boost in adult hockey membership, as well as a slight jump from ages 10 on down.
I briefly touched on the tremendous growth in Illinois over the last two seasons in my post on the Stanley Cup Effect. However, I wanted to dig a little deeper.
The Blackhawks resurgence has certainly played a big role in the growth of hockey in Chicago and surrounding areas. With another 10.5% increase in membership in 2010-11, Illinois has seen its membership climb to an all-time high of 26,528, which ranks sixth nationally. Illinois has picked up 4,574 players in the last two years. That’s incredible growth for a state that has already had solid membership.
Unlike most of the other states that have grown a lot over the years thanks to increased adult membership and more adult leagues affiliating with USA Hockey, Illinois has relied on its youth.
In 2010-11, Illinois saw a 23% increase in members under the age of 12. The state added 737 players at the 6 & Under level, 681 at 8 & Under, 554 at 10 & Under and 380 at 12 & Under from the previous season. There was a 30.1% increase among players under the age of eight.
Hockey’s popularity is at an all-time high in Chicago and its suburbs. Combine that with a dedicated base in Southern Illinois thanks to the St. Louis Blues and the future looks incredibly bright for the Land of Lincoln.
Pennsylvania continued its climb to be included in the upper echelon of hockey states in the U.S. USA Hockey splits Eastern and Western Pennsylvania into two groups, as they are part of different districts.
Eastern PA experienced 4% growth in 2010-11, making solid gains in its youngest levels of youth hockey.
Western PA has really exploded over the last few years and enjoyed another year of significant growth as membership rose by 13.3%. Since 2006-07, hockey membership has grown by 41.6% on the Pittsburgh side of the state. I don’t think I need to tell you how incredible that is. Thanks, Sid.
When combining the two, 29,735 hockey players are registered in Pennsylvania. That’s up 7.9% from the previous season and showing no signs of slowing. The state ranks fourth in the nation in membership, trumped only by The Three M’s: Minnesota, Michigan and Massachusetts.
I wanted to single out Maryland here to show how much it has continually grown over the last few years. In 2010-11, the state experienced 14% growth and is at an all-time high of 8,351 members. Some of this growth has been helped by a very solid and continually growing adult hockey community.
However, the youth ranks have grown significantly over the last two years. In 2010-11, youth membership had increased by 33.7% from 2008-09. This is an incredibly encouraging and exciting development.
There’s no doubt the success of Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals have played a role, but I’ve met some of the dedicated volunteers helping hockey in Maryland and they deserve a big piece of the credit.
Maryland’s neighbor, Virginia, also had another year of growth, increasing membership by an admirable 8.1%. While Washington, D.C., experienced an 8.5% spike in membership. Both have reached all-time highs in membership with 7,838 players in Virginia and 805 in D.C.
Non-Traditional Expansion States
It may be officially time to remove the non-traditional tag from California. After a year in which the state experienced 9.3% growth, California boasts an all-time high of 22,305 registered hockey players. The Golden State ranks sixth nationally.
California experienced growth in almost every single age classification. The only age class the state lost members in was 17-18, however the loss was minimal as just 19 fewer players were registered in that division from the previous year. Impressive stuff.
Texas also experienced pretty good growth in 2010-11, as membership rose by 6.9%. Texas also boasts its highest membership in history, with 11,661 registered players in the state. From ages 12 on down, Texas is growing. Adult hockey also got a boost last season.
Arizona had a nice season growth-wise as well, as it experienced a 9.3% increase in membership. Despite turmoil in the desert, kids are still showing up to the rinks across the state. The Coyotes have a significant relationship with the youth hockey community, so seeing a nice number like 9.3% must be encouraging for them.
Georgia was above the national average as well as membership grew by 6.8%. There are now 2,287 registered players in Georgia, an all-time high for the state. As we all know, they’ll be without an NHL team starting next season. We won’t know what kind of impact that will have for at least two more years, but odds are it won’t be too great.
Eight of the 11 states (plus Washington, D.C.) in USA Hockey’s Southeastern District out-paced national growth. Slowly, but surely, the game is taking hold in states it was unable to crack 10 years ago. Another great NHL season and increased efforts from USA Hockey will only continue this trend in the Southeast.
Best of the Rest
South Dakota showed significant growth in 2010-11, with a 14.1% increase in membership. It’s northern neighbor, North Dakota received a 9.1% boost. Both are at all-time highs now, with 4,960 players registered in North Dakota and 2,458 in South Dakota.
Alabama was one of the highlights of the Southeast. With 14.2% growth, there are now 1,272 hockey players in ‘bama. That’s a long way from the 210 players it had 20 years ago.
Tennessee was above the national growth average with a 5.9% increase to an all-time high of 2,573 members. We may be able to expect another boost next year after Nashville’s tremendous season.
Massachusetts might be one of the big three hockey states in America, but anytime you can see 3.4% growth in a hockey-mad market, you have to be happy. Despite a large hockey-playing base in the state, it continues to move forward.
New Jersey’s hockey growth has been pretty fun to watch as well. Membership rose another 7.8% in 2010-11 and eclipsed 17,000 players for the first time in the state’s history. There are also a ton of high-end players coming out of Jersey now. Keep an eye on the Garden State.
Colorado rallied after two consecutive down years to increase membership by 6.4%. Since the mid 1990s, Colorado has been on a pretty solid rise. It didn’t reach an all-time high in 2010-11, but it got close. We often forget about Colorado when talking about good hockey states, but it certainly belongs in the discussion with 14,294 players statewide.
So all-in-all, it was a fantastic year for USA Hockey. To have eclipsed the 500,000-player mark and experience the outstanding growth in the youngest levels of youth hockey has to be gratifying. There’s a lot of people who work hard to keep the game growing in our country, and it looks like they’re doing a pretty good job of it.