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Best Time To Be A USA Hockey Fan/Sunbelt Research Primer

July 9, 2010

World Juniors Champions, U-18 Champions, Inline World Champions, Sled Hockey World Champions, Women’s Olympic Silver Medalists, Men’s Olympic Silver Medalists, 59 players taken in the draft, a record 10 in the First Round, 11 in the Second.

I cannot think of a better time to be a fan of USA Hockey.

All of these accolades are just the tip of the iceberg for what seems to be building as a great growth of the sport in the States. This all comes after the announcement by USA Hockey that they were instituting a new program to raise the retention rate of youth players. As an American hockey fan, I’m ecstatic about this development in recent years.

Although it has me thinking, has Bettman’s attempt to spread the sport to the sunbelt…actually paid off?

In a topic I plan to explore in a later post, has hockey in the sunbelt actually made the sport a fully American game? I know to anyone that isn’t really a hockey fan, this seems like a silly question with an obvious answer, but it must be asked as it seems to counter everything one hears about bringing hockey below the Mason/Dixon Line.

As a fan of a team in a sunbelt market and one in a traditional market, I’ve seen both go through periods of high attendance and complete apathy. Both cities have proven themselves to be solid markets completely capable of supporting a franchise. Although its always easier for an established hockey city like Chicago to support a team over a market of transplants like Tampa Bay.

I personally think that sunbelt cities can be great places for franchises, but like all things, time must be given to let the game grow. We’ve taken a sport of ice and placed it in a region that rarely goes below freezing in winter. Yes, for now, northern markets are outperforming southern ones, but what about in twenty years? I’m not saying that cities like Miami, Dallas or Tampa will become hockey meccas replacing places like Montreal, but if given time, could the game grow to where the markets became solid and respected?

This is a topic I intend to explore in future posts.

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