Five years ago, Hockey Weekend Across America began as a way for USA Hockey to lead the country in a nationwide celebration of the sport. Every year it has gotten bigger and better and the fifth edition of HWAA should be no different.
Sunday, NBC will televise Hockey Day in America, which brought in a significant ratings bump for the network last year (its first year in existence). NBC’s involvement has helped spread awareness of the nationwide event, but it has also become a great way to cap the weekend celebration. More on Hockey Day in a bit.
While Hockey Weekend Across America has evolved, it has remained true to its three daily themes: Friday is Wear Your Favorite Hockey Jersey Day, Saturday is Try Hockey Day and Sunday is Celebrate Local Hockey Heroes Day.
Friday and Sunday are more often celebrated on a bit of a personal or individual level for hockey people around the county. Saturday, however, could become the signature of Hockey Weekend and in the end is the most national of the days, when it comes to tangible participation.
More than 200 rinks across the United States will open their doors to young kids looking to try hockey for the first time. More than 4,000 kids are expected to participate in the Try Hockey Free Days throughout the country. A similar Try Hockey Day held in November hosted more than 11,000 kids. So a potential 15,000 kids will have tried hockey for the first time this season. Who knows how many stick with it, but regardless, 15,000 kids trying the sport in a given year that otherwise probably wouldn’t have, is great for the game of hockey.
To find out if there is a Try Hockey Day in your area, click here. There’s also a list of some of the featured events of Hockey Weekend Across America here.
While Hockey Weekend Across America is great as a celebration, it’s better as an opportunity to expose the game to new people annually. That goes a long way in promoting the sport. Having a designated weekend in which hockey grabs a portion of the country’s attention, no matter how small or large is a great thing.
Puck the Media has a solid primer on Hockey Day in America and NBC’s coverage. From noon ET to 9 p.m. Sunday, there will be some sort of hockey coverage on TV across the NBC Sports Group’s main platforms, with the main studio set up in St. Paul, Minn.
NBC has also produced some special features about hockey in the U.S. From PTM:
NBC will air hockey programming from Noon-6 p.m. ET, afterwards NBC Sports Network will take over from 6-9:30 p.m. ET. Things will kick off with the second annual Hockey Day in America special, which will feature footage from four different hockey teams from around the country. The Roseau-Warroad high school rivalry from Minnesota, the Tampa Bay Lightning sled hockey organization, and the U.S. National Team Development program will all get some network TV love.
Liam McHugh will host the NHL’s studio show, live from Wells Fargo WinterSkate in St. Paul, Minnesota (the show was in Chicago last year) with Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury while three games will begin with staggered start times at 12:30 p.m. ET.
The staggered national broadcasts include Detroit-San Jose, which will be seen by most of the country, Pittsburgh-Buffalo, and St. Louis Blues-Chicago. All of those games should be able to pull in strong ratings, as Detroit, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Chicago tend to do really well on national broadcasts. Then over on NBC Sports Network, New Jersey-Montreal closes the day out at 6 p.m. ET.
No matter how you slice it, many hours of hockey on easily-accessible TV is just wonderful.
I’ll keep bringing some Hockey Weekend Across America coverage throughout the week and would love for you to chime in as well in the comments or on Facebook with how you’ll be celebrating.