For 75 years USA Hockey has helped the game grow across the country. The governing body for hockey in the United States has grown so much itself in those 75 years and is probably stronger today than ever before.
Formerly known as the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States, the national governing body laid the foundation on which hockey has been built in this country. It wasn’t just through setting rules and regulations. There was vision and drive that led to the United States becoming the international hockey power it is today.
USA Hockey is so much more than a series of national teams or a place you send membership dues to.
It is an organization that has been built on the backs of volunteers across the country, people that committed time, money and energy to sharing their love of the game with those around them.
Few organizations have been as proactive in educating its volunteer coaches, arming them with the information necessary to help players improve, but also how to keep them interested and coming back. There aren’t many NGB’s that have taken such a vested interest in the development of its players and that has only intensified with the implementation of the American Development Model, an initiative to help all players, not just the best ones.
And yes, there are those national teams. Starting with Olympic gold in 1960, USA Hockey has put the national team program on a path to great success. There was of course the Miracle on Ice, the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and the landmark gold medal for the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team in 1998. There were silvers in 2002 and 2010 for both the men’s and women’s programs at the Olympic Winter Games.
There have been multiple women’s world championships including three straight from 2008-2011. World Junior gold in 2004 and 2010. World Men’s Under-18 gold in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2009-12. World Women’s Under-18 gold in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Paralympic gold in 2002 and 2010.
These successes did not come without great sacrifice from those volunteers that got up for 5 a.m. practice or the folks who have been working their tails off in USA Hockey’s national office in Colorado Springs, Colo.
USA Hockey was my professional home for three years, so I know just how hard the people in Colorado and Ann Arbor work to make the game better. You may not always agree with their decisions or new rules or membership dues increases, but there isn’t a person in that office or out in the field that doesn’t put the game first.
In a way, USA Hockey’s success is our success. Those that love the game tend to love it with their whole heart. We care about its future and our place in it. Without the people like us, who play or coach or officiate or volunteer, the organization doesn’t exist.
USA Hockey has grown to nearly 600,000 total members, including more than 511,000 players, many of them kids. In the grand population of the United States, it may not seem like much, but since 1991, membership has grown 189.6 percent and is rising.
It is somewhat a shame that such a celebration comes with hushed tones as the National Hockey League, another catalyst for USA Hockey’s tremendous growth in the last 20 years, is locked out.
While the NHL is gone for now, there will still be games this weekend from Rochester, N.Y., to Riverside, Calif. Someone will take the ice for the first time in Marlboro, Mass. A dad will be lacing up his daughter’s skates in Orland Park, Ill. A coach will be drawing up a drill on his whiteboard in Warroad, Minn. A pair of junior teams will square off in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A mom will be hauling a hockey bag in Raleigh, N.C. A men’s league team will share a few post-game beverages in Plano, Texas. And all of it will have been 75 years in the making.
Congratulations to USA Hockey on your diamond anniversary. This former Homewood-Flossmoor squirt thanks you for your hard work.