For the 2021-22 season, USA Hockey player membership has increased 20 percent nationwide over the 2020-21 season. According to the recently released numbers from USA Hockey, there were 93,603 player memberships added over the 2021-22 season increasing the total to 547,429. Recovery from the pandemic-impacted season is in full swing, but the overall numbers have not returned to their pre-pandemic levels where player memberships were 561,700 for 2019-20. Of the 52 territories in the report, 23 of them are exceeding their 2019-20 player membership numbers.
Here is a deep dive into some of the insights in the report.
USA Hockey memberships – the biggest increase
The biggest gainers in memberships were also the hardest hit during the pandemic season. California, Michigan, and New York saw the biggest rebound in memberships this season. California added 16,113 this year after losing 20,769 from 2019-20 to 2020-21 season.
It’s awesome to see Washington State add the fifth most members this season with an additional 4,610 memberships. In terms of percentage increase, Washington added the second most players.
USA Hockey breakdown by age groups
When we slice the data by age groups we can see the most robust recovery is coming from the adult hockey space (19+), but the second biggest increase is from the ‘Six and Under’ age group.
Washington State by the numbers
If we just filter on Washington State, we can see where the growth is coming from locally.
The biggest net additions is coming from the adult levels. There are two main reasons for this:
- Recovery. Several leagues had significant shut downs during the 2020-21 season, so as these leagues started to come back, so would the players. Several of the leagues did not come back online until spring of 2021 as COVID-19 vaccines started to become available. These leagues were slow to ramp up and in most cases did not hit their stride until late spring/early summer when new memberships were classified for the 2021-22 season.
- Kraken Adult Learn To Play. Adult learn-to-play programs are not new to the greater Seattle area, but the Kraken ran their programs all year and had multiple programs going each week. This meant their capacity per class was significantly higher than other programs.
On the youth hockey front, the biggest growth came from players 10 and under. Again, this is another indication of the Kraken’s influence and commitment to grow the game in the region. Part of this is a function of the NHL Learn to Play program that, up until this year, was not available to people in this part of the country.
Local organizations do not share their individual membership totals, but it is a safe assumption that the growth was not strictly from the Kraken youth hockey programs. The Kraken will get a lot of credit for the growth, but there are about a dozen associations in or near Seattle that continue to support learn-to-play programs of their own.
Washington State outlook
After the launch of the Vegas Golden Knights during the 2017-18 season, Nevada saw a huge spike in player memberships, but that did not happen until the following season.
However, it is unrealistic to expect the kind of explosive growth Nevada saw for a couple reasons. First, the Golden Knights had a magical inaugural season that ended with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. That injected a new hockey market with excitement and enthusiasm that would propel kids and adults to try the sport out for themselves. The Kraken did expose the sport to many new families, which will inspire people to try it out next season, but a playoff run would have invigorated the fan base even more. Such a run likely would have led to a more massive increase in membership rates for Washington State.
Additionally, Nevada had a very low number of USA Hockey player memberships before the Golden Knights joined the league, enabling that region to grow its numbers at an unprecedented rate. To put it in a business perspective, Nevada had an untapped customer base. Washington State, on the other hand, had a significant number of hockey players in the area before the Kraken arrived.
There is little doubt that we will continue to see an increase in participation in Washington State, as the Kraken continue to grow the sport directly with “Try Hockey For Free” events and focused programming. But there will also be an organic impact, as the team improves on the ice, that will excite more and more families to take up hockey.
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