According to USA Hockey’s most recent Facebook update, membership is on its way up:
Registration for the 2010-11 season continues to outpace last season! As of Dec. 20, there were just over 464K players and 52K coaches registered with USA Hockey – participation is up at every age level with the largest increases coming in the 8U and adult categories. Congratulations to all of our member programs for outstanding work in growing the game!
With more people still registering as the season goes along, we won’t know the final numbers for some time, but to already have more than 464,000 players signed up is pretty impressive.
Just to give you a point of reference: USA Hockey has gone from 446,000+ players in 2002-03, to 474,952 in 2009-10, a mark that is looking like it could be eclipsed this year. Nearly 30,000 more players in a span of seven seasons?
That means, despite economic hardships in the U.S., hockey is not only growing, but many people are sticking with it. While growth is important, it’s retention that is key for the long term.
If you can get a kid hooked on hockey at a young age, odds are, he or she is going to stick with it for a while. At least, that’s the hope. Even if that young boy or girl ever stops playing hockey at any point, there’s still a good shot that he or she will be a hockey fan for life, and may one day come back to the game either as as a coach, an official, or an adult player.
The continued growth in adult membership is also a positive. As I mentioned, it means that there are likely some people coming back to hockey, but there are a lot of first-year adult players out there too.
I’ve played on a few men’s league teams with guys who never played until they were adults. Most of those guys were sick of seeing their kids have all the fun, some others just loved watching the game, so it was time for them to lace ’em up. To see continued growth in membership among adults has got to be satisfying for USA Hockey.
USA Hockey’s total membership (players, coaches and officials) at the end of the 2009-10 season stood at 558,476. There’s no reason to think that number can’t continue to grow, as its looking like it will this season.
You don’t have to play hockey to be a fan, but the USA Hockey membership numbers tell us a lot about how many people are getting actively involved in the sport. A lot of people out there are becoming invested in the game on a deeper level.
It all starts from the ground up. Hats off to the folks at USA Hockey, particularly in its three-year-old Membership Development department, and all of the youth hockey associations across the country for the continued efforts to grow the game.
Throughout the year, I’ll examine whats being done across the country, as well as what’s happening in the USA Hockey offices, to keep expanding hockey’s influence in the United States.