Emily Wright kicks off a new series for FiCP which is designed to open a dialogue about ways to expand hockey in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. We’d love to hear your ideas as we begin to explore ways to Grow Hockey in the DMV! Here’s Emily’s first post in the series:
While I was living in Minnesota, I kept turning one phrase over and over again in my mind. It was emblazoned on signs all over Verizon: Building America’s Hockey Capital. In Minneapolis, I had access to literally hundreds of sheets of ice within a twenty mile radius. League fees were low, ice time was cheap, and there was a sense that still more could be done to promote participation in the game.
Our area could not be more different. We have no great expanse of reasonably-priced land on which to build endless county-run rinks. There is one single sheet in DC proper available to the public. There are a decent number of rinks serving MD and VA, but when you look at per capita figures, it’s no surprise that most sheets are full in the after-school hours, leaving no room for growth. MD has 18 rinks. That’s 1 for every 329,379 people. Virginia’s 15 rinks make it one rink for every half a million residents. In the US, Minnesota is the clear winner with 236 rinks. In terms of access, it’s unparalleled, with one rink for every 22,968 people. It has clearly earned the title The State of Hockey.
Hockey is growing in the United States, and in the DC Metro area in particular. Our region, dubbed the Southeastern area by USA Hockey, basically consists of all of the “non-traditional” markets east of the Mississippi- places where water doesn’t reliably freeze in the wintertime.
According to USA Hockey, overall enrollment in the Southeastern roughly parallels Minnesota’s. Minnesota gets its own category, because the numbers there are so huge- including it in any other region would be silly.
Minnesota, population ~5.4 million
57,107 enrolled (13,354 women/girls)
Southeast, (AL, AR, DC, FL, GA, LA, MD, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA) population: ~82.2 million
51,438 enrolled (4,138 women/girls)
source: USA Hockey 2015-16 Final Report
It should be noted that these are not the numbers for all players. There are other hockey orgs, like Hockey North America (HNA), for instance, that run leagues with thousands of players, and many teams are independent. USA Hockey is a great place to look because they are by far the most ubiquitous and have been keeping accurate records for a long time, not to mention that many players are in multiple leagues. USA Hockey casts a wide net.
It should also be mentioned that the Southeastern region’s members are pegged at the extremes of the income and poverty statistics. MD, DC and VA are right up there among the wealthiest states, while AR, MS, AL, SC and LA are among the poorest. It is also worth a hard look at DC itself, where the big money resides west of the Anacostia, while many of those east of it struggle to survive.
It is no secret that hockey has traditionally been a sport for the affluent, and as uncomfortable as it is to talk about, it’s something we’ll have to own up to as a community if we want to increase access and grow the sport for everyone in the DMV. It is for this reason that this series will not focus on the already booming club teams in this area, but rather on what can be done to encourage participation on a similar level to other school-age sports programs.
In the posts that follow, I’m going to take a look at the state of hockey in our region, and what we might be able to do—from practical steps to pie-in-the-sky dreams— to grow this wonderful sport, and possibly do some good in the process.