COLORADO SPRINGS, USA – The fourth annual Hockey Weekend Across America was a success on all fronts. The nationwide event was a three-day celebration of the sport of hockey that included hundreds of thousands of fans wearing their favorite hockey jerseys, more than 6,000 boys and girls trying hockey for the very first time and millions of viewers watching NBC’s Hockey Day in America coverage.
“Once again, Hockey Weekend Across America proved to be a tremendous success,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “The passion of those involved in our sport is unmatched, and that passion was on full display in many different forms over the weekend.”
Each of the three days associated with Hockey Weekend Across America had a theme, including Wear Your Favorite Hockey Jersey; Bring a Friend to the Rink and Celebrate Local Hockey Heroes.
USA Hockey directed fans to its Facebook page to submit photos of themselves, their friends and colleagues donning their favorite team’s jersey at work or at school during “Wear Your Favorite Hockey Jersey” day. Fans also tweeted pictures throughout the day using the hashtag #HWAA.
“Hockey Weekend Across America truly provides an opportunity for everyone to spread the word about our sport and celebrate the many reasons we all think it’s so special,” said Tom Anastos, commissioner of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, which communicated with its fan base via its website and social networking sites throughout the weekend.
“From the players and coaches to the parents and volunteers, Hockey Weekend Across America highlights the tremendous passion of our sport and epitomizes why so many of us believe that every day is a great day for hockey.”
On Saturday, 182 rinks in 48 states across the nation hosted Try Hockey for Free events, introducing 6,064 young kids to hockey for the very first time. Omaha, Nebraska’s Moylan Ice Plex and Sugar Land, Texas’ Sugar Land Ice & Sports Center each welcomed nearly 250 hockey first-timers. Meanwhile, the New York Rangers hosted a Try Hockey for Free clinic on Central Park’s Wollman Rink as part of its Rangers Winter Hockey Fest, where former Rangers Mike Richter, Nick Fotiu and Brian Mullen were on hand. A map of clinics held across the country can be found here.
“It’s important to celebrate our sport, and Hockey Weekend Across America presents a wonderful framework for everyone in the hockey community to do just that,” said Mike Richter, one of the most renowned American-born goaltenders in history and a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. “We had a terrific day at Wollman Rink and it was fun to see the smiles on the faces of so many kids.”
In honor of “Celebrate Local Hockey Heroes” day on Sunday, USA Hockey asked fans to post stories, photos or videos of their hockey heroes to USA Hockey’s Facebook wall to share with the world. In addition, many local teams and associations honored their heroes in their own way. For example, the city of River Falls, Wis., proclaimed Saturday as “Karyn Bye Dietz Day” in honor of the former U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team member who won the gold medal with Team USA in 1998.
“Hockey Weekend Across America provides a wonderful opportunity to highlight the significance and growth of hockey all across America,” said Angela Ruggiero, a four-time U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team member and teammate of Bye Dietz in 1998.
“From lessons learned on the ice to the personal developments gained by playing a team sport, hockey has a truly positive impact on all those involved in the sport.”
Also on Sunday, NBC presented its “Hockey Day in America” coverage from 12 - 6 p.m. EST, including an NHL doubleheader and content throughout the broadcast that showcased all levels of hockey in the United States. The broadcast – which included a piece on the 2011 Labatt Blue/USA Hockey National Pond Hockey Championships; an outdoor American Development Model clinic in Chicago’s Millennium Park; and a story on the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Program, the oldest minority hockey program in the United States – was watched by millions of viewers.
“The clinic was a true celebration of Hockey Weekend Across America,” said Bob Mancini, a regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model who managed and led the ADM clinic at Chicago’s Millennium Park that served as a backdrop for NBC’s coverage.
“Even the rain could not keep the smiles off of the faces of kids and coaches alike. That event really showed the passion that everyone involved has for the game.”
Other highlights from the weekend included the United States Hockey League drawing over 50,000 fans over the three-day span, including a crowd of 6,328 in Omaha on to see the Lancers host the Lincoln Stars.
“It was a great weekend,” said Skip Prince, the Commissioner of the junior league. “It’s a terrific time to be involved in hockey. Our sport is strong and we’re particularly proud that by this time next year, many of the young men that play in the USHL will be filling NHL and NCAA buildings.”
USA Hockey also celebrated the registration of its record-setting 100,000th member in the 8-and-under age group. That 100,000th member – Laura Clements – was greeted on the ice by Olympians Kacey Bellamy (2010), Colleen Coyne (1998) and Karen Thatcher (2010) at her Learn to Play practice at Tabor Academy in Marion, Mass.
“What a great day, a day I’ll never forget and hopefully Laura won’t either," said Jessee Clements, mother of Laura who was also featured on NBC’s Hockey Day in America coverage.
– With files from USA Hockey