SportsEvents Magazine

SEP 2017

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September 2017 36 t SPORT Report HOCKEY Youth involvement in team sports has declined over the past decade. According to a report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, inactivity among kids hit 20.0 percent in 2014 and further increased to 37.1 percent in 2015. While fewer children have been making the decision to choose a team, a few sports have seen an increase in youth involvement. One of those sports is hockey. In fact, hockey has been seeing an upward trend since 2009. "For us, par- ticipation continues to grow," said Dave Fischer, senior director of communications for USA Hockey, the governing body for organized amateur ice hockey in the United States. "And that's across the board at all levels, including youth, girls/women, dis- abled and adult. So, our playing population is expanding." According to USA Hockey's most recent data, 555,175 players took part in the sport during the 2016-17 season, an increase of 2.32 percent from the previous season. Add in the number of non-participants (such as parents, volunteers, team managers, etc.) and participation was more than 1.15 million during the last season, an all-time USA Hockey record. "Another big success in these numbers is that this year we also had our biggest participation ever with females," Fischer said. "The growth is exciting. Especially because it wasn't that many decades ago that hockey was really thought of as only a sport played in a hand- ful of states and now you have it in all 50 states." There are a number of factors that have gone into the growth of the sport. Hockey continues to get great exposure on national television, Fischer notes, and the National Hockey League (NHL) has continued to expand over the last 25 years. "When the NHL expanded into what we call non-tra- ditional markets, such as the South and California, and now with the expansion into Las Vegas, that gives incredible visi- bility to the sport," he said. "And not just NHL but also other professional leagues. When those types of entities come into a community, it inspires people to watch and perhaps even aspire to play hockey." Also, top events being held in the United States provides great exposure for the sport. In late December, Buffalo, N.Y., will host the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship, which features the best men's players in the world under the age of 20. The event concludes January 5, 2018. "It's one of the most anticipated events on the hockey calendar every year," Fischer said. The United States is not only the defending gold champion, the U.S. team This Team Sport Continues To Score With All Ages BY PAIGE TOWNLEY There's Something About

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