(BPT) – American hockey participation has greatly increased since the early 1990’s, according to USA Hockey, the governing body for organized amateur ice hockey in the U.S. More than just a game, experts say hockey develops skills on the ice that build a foundation for a lifetime. In addition to athletic prowess, the game promotes confidence, pride, focus and responsibility.
In a country that already boasts soccer moms, Friday night lights and hoops madness, why has hockey seen such unique growth?
Speed and excitement: Hockey is fast paced, constantly changing and full of excitement. For children who grow up with smartphones, tablets and the instantaneous flow of information on social media, hockey is the sports equivalent of Twitter.
Physical activity: Hockey provides great cardiovascular exercise. Just think, players always get off the rink breathing heavy. It also builds strength, as skating engages muscles in a different way than running.
The pros: The National Hockey League (NHL) has experienced considerable growth over the past 30 years, and in 2013, the League averaged more sellout crowds than professional basketball, with 15 markets averaging at least 100 percent capacity at home games. As professional hockey grows, it creates a trickle-down effect that spreads to the college, high school and youth league level.
Community support: Across the country, hockey programs are making it easier for kids of all ages and skill levels to join and enjoy the sport. The rink where teams play is often a focal point of community connection, igniting a strong passion, pride and loyalty which the entire community rallies around.
“Growing up in Boston, hockey was a way of life for children and families, and it brought together my community in a way that nothing else could,” says NHL legend and NBC Sports analyst, Jeremy Roenick. “I wouldn’t be who I am today without the lessons I learned and the experiences I gained at Pilgrim Arena from coaches like my dad, Wally Roenick, Paul Kramer and Arthur Valicenti.”
With thousands of hockey rinks across the U.S., some are in need of TLC. To support these community rinks and keep the spirit of hockey alive, Kraft has partnered with NHL, NHLPA, NBC Sports Group and USA Hockey to bring the Canadian-born Kraft Hockeyville program to the U.S.
In searching for the country’s most passionate hockey community, Kraft will award a total of $ 425,000 in prizes to 10 communities to help breathe new life into their rinks, keeping them open for many more years to come while offering a place for young athletes to thrive. The lucky community named “Kraft Hockeyville USA” will get the chance to host an NHL Pre-Season game at their rink – televised on NBCSN – and the grand prize of $ 150,000 in arena upgrades.
“The bonds communities form through local and youth sports make them stronger. Local hockey arenas provide a place for kids to learn, play and compete and communities to gather and rally together,” says Roenick.
To learn more and to submit your community hockey rink story, visit www.KraftHockeyville.com. You can also join the conversation at Facebook.com/KraftHockeyvilleUSA or on Twitter (@HockeyvilleUSA) using #HockeyvilleUSA.