U.S. Hockey Participation Numbers for 2013-14

There were more people playing hockey in the United States than ever before during the 2013-14 season according to USA Hockey. The national governing body’s membership report released in early June indicates that 519,417 people registered as players last season, which bested the previous year’s total by more than 9,000 and the previous record set in 2011-12 by 7,000. It should go without saying that this is a spectacular sign for the direction of hockey in the United States.

USAHockeyArcUSA Hockey enjoyed a 1.79 percent bump in membership from 2012-13, which helped offset a minimal decline in playing membership that season. Looking at the 10-year growth, USA Hockey has enjoyed a 16.6 percent bump from 2004-05.

The organization also reached record highs in total membership, which includes coaches and on-ice officials. USA Hockey now includes 598,841 Americans directly involved with hockey as players, coaches or officials, with an estimated 1 million-plus involved as volunteers, team managers and parents. That’s pretty good news for the game.

Coming up after the jump, a deeper dive into the 2013-14 numbers as well as a state-by-state breakdown of growth and where each state ranked in total membership last season.

Getting back to the year-to-year, which is where we’ll focus most of this post on, USA Hockey saw significant bumps in adult hockey membership, which has been the organization’s fastest-rising segment over the last decade. Those 19 and older registered in the United States increased by 6,909 players for a stunning 4.30 percent spike from 2012-13.

Perhaps even more encouraging, the 6 & Under age group grew by 4 percent also. There was a drop at the 7-8 age range, which is a disappointment as that is an area where USA Hockey is focusing its efforts on growth, but it was a rather small loss of 970 players. That very well could and should bounce back next year with the rising 6 & Under numbers.

The most pleasing numbers in my opinion come at the other youth levels. From ages 9-14, there was growth across the board. At the Squirt level (9-10), there was small growth at 1.29 percent. Pee Wees (11-12) grew by just 69 total players, but here’s the best number yet: the Bantam age level, which includes those at age 13-14 which is where you’ll commonly see a drop off, saw growth of 2.06 percent. The positive numbers may be low, but to have positive numbers at 11-14 at all is huge.

The recent changes body checking rules, which raised the age to 13-14 from 11-12, may already be paying dividends. The positive numbers best reflect retention more than growth as the larger numbers of kids playing hockey are staying with it longer. There were frequent losses at the 11-12 age group when body checking was previously introduced. That’s delayed two years now, meaning it very well may be helping keep players in the game longer. Based on a quick look, this 2.06 percent growth at the Bantam level is the best since at least 2008-09, but could go back even further. It is rare it stays in the black at all year-to-year.

The 13-14 ages is actually where most sports start seeing decline across the board as kids’ interests change into their adolescence. I have no way of knowing if this kind of growth is sustainable, but it’s extremely encouraging.

Another area that is definitely encouraging is the growth in female players nationwide. According to USA Hockey’s figures, 67,230 women and girls were playing hockey last season, which would appear to be an all-time high. That number is up by 2.33 percent from the previous season. This was an Olympic year, which almost always brings growth to women’s hockey and I’d venture a guess that it will be just a bit higher next year as well as more young girls sign up for their first season of hockey the year following the Olympics.

State-By-State Hockey Participation for 2013-14

******Each state listed in alphabetical order. Rank is where total membership ranks among 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Percentage of growth is relative to 2012-13 and listed in parenthesis next to total membership, which includes only players (does not include coaches or officials). It is also important to note that not every hockey player and league in the country are registered with USA Hockey, but most are. So these numbers are not all-encompassing, but the best representation we have.*******

Total Players: 1,236 (+2.74%)
National Rank: 43

Total Players: 8,469 (+0.17%)
National Rank: 17

Total Players: 4,860 (+17.8%)
National Rank: 25
Notes: Arizona was one of the most pleasant surprises of the most recent season. The gains were made primarily through a boost in adult hockey registration, but most of the youth levels also saw some gains. With Coyotes ownership stabilized for the first time in some years, more focus could be brought to building a youth hockey base (or at least they should be doing that as an organization). If the team becomes competitive soon, this number could be headed up as enthusiasm for the local team often brings better numbers. Arizona is still chasing record highs it set for hockey participation in the early 2000s, but it’s as close as it’s ever been now.

Total Players: 359 (+13.2%)
National Rank: 49

Total Players: 25,288 (+4.8%)
National Rank: 7
Notes: California’s hockey participation is at its highest ever and climbing as it has for the last several years. Expect it to continue headed in this direction with the three California NHL teams among the best in the league. Think the Kings-Sharks and Kings-Ducks series this year will help? You bet. Two Cups in three years won’t help in one of the largest media markets in the country. California’s hockey growth is well out-pacing the national averages and has been for a few years now.

Total Players: 13,570 (+1.86)
National Rank: 11
Notes: Colorado is rebounding after a surprise steep decline last year that appeared to be primarily out of the adult hockey numbers, which can be volatile in a fluctuating economy. The enthusiasm surrounding the Avalanche and strong infrastructure to help support growth should get things moving positively again in short order.

Total Players: 13,275 (-0.37%)
National Rank: 12

Total Players: 915 (+0.2%)
National Rank: 46

Total Players: 11,982 (+0.4%)
National Rank: 14

Total Player: 2,095 (-1.1%)
National Rank: 35
Notes: Since the Thrashers left Atlanta, Georgia hockey participation has been in slow decline and it is unlikely to see the trend stopping as a result.

Total Players: 19 (+58.3%)
National Rank: 51

Total Players: 3,396 (+1.4%)
National Rank: 30

Total Players: 29,977 (+8.4%)
National Rank: 6
Notes: It warms my heart to see my home state moving forward in such a meaningful way when it comes to hockey participation. Illinois is getting very close to overtaking Pennsylvania in the U.S. top five after a stunning 8.4 percent increase coming out of the Blackhawks’ second Stanley Cup. I have a theory that the Blackhawks second Cup will end up being the more impactful of the two in recent years as the first Cup hooked people, while the second one had more fans invested in it. Since 2008-09, Illinois has picked up more than 8,000 total players, which is pretty much unheard of for a state with an already large hockey population. That’s 36.6 percent growth in six years. Illinois should top 30,000 for the first time ever next year and I don’t know that it will slow down anytime soon if the economy’s recovery continues. Plans for new rinks are being made to help support this overwhelming and rapid growth. The most encouraging thing about Illinois’ growth is that it’s being driven at the youth level, which suggests this growth is more likely to be sustainable.

Total Players: 5,922 (+2.1%)
National Rank: 23

Total Players: 3,378 (+2.7%)
National Rank: 31

Total Players: 1,648 (+4.7%)
National Rank: 38

Total Players: 1,625 (+1.3%)
National Rank: 39

Total Players: 425 (+4.4%)
National Rank: 48

Total Players: 6,526 (+10.9%)
National Rank: 20
Notes: A huge spike in adult hockey registration helped lead to such a large bump.

Total Players: 9,122 (-0.4%)
National Rank: 16

Total Players: 48,074 (+2.9%)
National Rank: 4
Notes: I believe this is a record high for Massachusetts, and the Bay State is as close as it’s been in years to New York for the No. 3 spot for hockey population. There was a boost in adult hockey, but also at the youth levels with multiple segments seeing increases. This is extremely encouraging for a state that had seen a slight decline last year.

Total Players: 50,585 (-2.5%)
National Rank: 2
Notes: Not terribly long ago, Michigan was the No. 1 state in terms of USA Hockey membership, but over the last decade, it has been in a virtual free fall. Economic woes have taken their toll as has an increasing segment of youth hockey league breaking off from USA Hockey and going under the AAU instead. That may be skewing the numbers, but only slightly. With one of the more significant drops from year-to-year in 2013-14, this could be a continuing trend unfortunately.

Total Players: 54,507 (1%)
National Rank: 1
Notes: The State of Hockey is aptly named as its hockey playing population is the largest in the country. Additionally, Minnesota’s high school ranks are not affiliated with USA Hockey meaning some of those players aren’t registered, so that puts this number a little lower than the actual playing population. That said, to continually see growth year after year is a testament to the sports popularity in Minnesota.

Total Players: 223 (-10.8%)
National Rank: 50

Total Players: 7,162 (-2.2%)
National Rank: 19

Total Players: 4,253 (+6.6%)
National Rank: 29

Total Players: 1,693 (+5.8%)
National Rank: 37

Total Players: 1,244 (+1.1%)
National Rank: 42

New Hampshire
Total Players: 6,211 (-1.4%)
National Rank: 21

New Jersey
Total Players: 18,438 (+0.95%)
National Rank: 8

New Mexico
Total Players: 1,298 (1.4%)
National Rank: 41

New York
Total Players: 48,354 (-0.39%)
National Rank: 3
Notes: After a minimal, almost negligible loss from 2012-13 in players, I’d expect a rather large bounce-back in 2014-15 for New York. With the Rangers’ deep run to the Stanley Cup Final, high TV ratings locally and a potential landmark hockey facility (HARBORCenter) in Buffalo opening next year, the best is yet to come. And in three years when the Kingsbridge rink in New York City opens up, there will be even more infrastructure support for a huge boom in the Empire State.

North Carolina
Total Players: 6,180 (-0.46)
National Rank: 22

North Dakota
Total Players: 5,5387 (5.1%)
National Rank: 24

Total Players: 14,387 (-0.29%)
National Rank: 10
Notes: With the Blue Jackets making only their second appearance in the playoffs and including a couple of budding league stars, there could be a boost after a minimal decline last season. Ohio is underrated for its general affinity for hockey. It’s bigger there than people think and it is one of the few states includes every level of the sport right it from NHL to AHL to NCAA to junior to high-level youth hockey.

Total Players: 738 (-32.2%)
National Rank: 47
Notes: This was a bit disappointing to see as Oklahoma hasn’t been under 1,000 players in some time. I was wondering if the Oklahoma City Oil Barons would have much impact on growth in the state, but as this shows, the answer is no. OKC is near the bottom in attendance in the AHL as well.

Total Players: 2,148 (+60.2%)
National Rank: 34
Notes: I think part of Oregon’s rapid growth is aided by adult leagues coming under USA Hockey registration that were not previously, skewing the numbers. That said, youth hockey is also up across the board. I think the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks and their recent stretch of excellent teams and ability to connect the greater Portland area to hockey has really made an impact here in some meaningful ways.

Total Players: 30,529 (+0.7%)
National Rank: 5
Notes: USA Hockey breaks Pennsylvania into two states when it counts their numbers as half the state is in one district and the other half in a different one. Eastern PA actually saw growth last year, while Western PA saw a drop (I believe) for the first time since Sidney Crosby arrived in Pittsburgh. It was minimal, but it goes against the previous trend. Either way, the minimal drop in WPA was offset by the slight growth in EPA and keeps Pennsylvania as a whole ahead of Illinois by 552 players.

Rhode Island
Total Players: 4,621 (-2.6%)
National Rank: 27

South Carolina
Total Players: 1,619 (11.4%)
National Rank: 40

South Dakota
Total Players: 2,788 (+4.7%)
National Rank: 33

Total Players: 2,938 (+0.68%)
National Rank: 32

Total Players: 12,909 (+8.8%)
National Rank: 13
Notes: Texas’ growth is driven by the adult ranks with many northern transplants, but the youth hockey is looking solid as well. In fact, there was huge growth at the youngest levels of youth hockey this past year and with the Stars looking like a playoff contender with some exciting talent, that trend should continue. This was a record year for participation this year in the Lone Star State.

Total Players: 4,421 (-0.8%)
National Rank: 28

Total Players: 4,756 (-2.1%)
National Rank: 26

Total Players: 9,351 (+2.2%)
National Rank: 15
Notes: Virginia hit another record high as its rapid growth trend continues in the wake of Alexander Ovechkin’s arrival with the Washington Capitals. The state has experience better than 60 percent growth over the last six years as Ovechkin continues piling up goals.

Total Players: 8,369 (+5.7%)
National Rank: 18
Note: If the NHL ever does drop a team in Seattle, I think there will be more than enough interest to support it. I don’t have much of a theory on how this is happening, but Washington state has been trending up in hockey participation for years now. Four WHL teams and a strong NAHL club definitely have to be helping in some ways here.

Washington, D.C.
Total Players: 1,113 (+11.3%)
National Rank: 45
Notes: SEE: Ovechkin, Alexander. Twelve years ago there was 150 players in the District.

West Virginia
Total Players: 1,147 (-0.17%)
National Rank: 44

Total Players: 17,762 (+1.2%)
National Rank: 9
Notes: Wisconsin has the highest hockey-playing population of any state without an NHL team.

Total Players: 1,925 (-2.7%)
National Rank: 36

Other Notes

– Only 16 states saw a decline in hockey participation last season, with seven of those seeing a decline of 1 percent or less. Oklahoma had the greatest percentage of decline (-32.2%), while Michigan lost the most players in total (1,344).

– Seven states had double-digit percentage of increase led by Oregon (60.2%). The state of Illinois gained the most total players (2,339).

– The following states out-paced average national growth percentages this year (listed from lowest to highest): Colorado, Indiana, Virginia, Iowa, Alabama, Massachusetts, Louisiana, South Dakota, Kansas, California, North Dakota, Washington, Nebraska, Montana, Illinois, Texas, Maine, Washington, D.C., South Carolina, Arkansas, Arizona, Hawaii and Oregon.

All numbers via USA Hockey’s annual membership report. Archives of each annual report can be found here. For a look at last year’s detailed review of hockey participation growth over between 2003-2013, click here.


About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
This entry was posted in Grow the Game, High School Hockey, Junior Hockey, Minor League Hockey, NCAA, NHL, USA Hockey, Youth Hockey. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to U.S. Hockey Participation Numbers for 2013-14

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  7. John says:

    Interesting numbers and good analysis.

    Does state NCAA success influence participation growth the same as pros/NHL? Maine had the highest bump among NCAA Div-1 states, ahead of New York which had mens’ and womens’ college champions and the Stanley Cup runner-up.

    What will (could) the Rangers’ run and the Islanders’ move to Brooklyn do for NYS state numbers? NYC numbers should bump up, with Nassau and Suffolk County numbers (theoretically) slip.


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  9. I’m happy to see adult numbers increase because I think one of the game’s great strengths is that you can play it as an adult and it still closely resembles the game the pros play, (a slower, less skilled, but essentially the same version), unlike, say, football or baseball. It looks like the non-traditional hockey states (Hawaii, I’m talking about you) are seeing some decent growth but it is troubling to see some of the establishment districts with minimal or declining growth. USA Hockey needs to realize that they have to address their customer’s needs, communicate with and involve them, and find ways to keep the game affordable, or they will go elsewhere, whether that’s AAU Hockey or to another activity.

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