With USA Hockey's Hockey Weekend in America upon us, it seems like a good time to take inventory of the status of the game in each region of the United States.
Of course, the game is solid in virtually every place across Canada, but the health of the game varies from place to place in the U.S. The interesting thing is, in so many cases, the game is far more prominent in a region's day-to-day life than the media would portray.
In Southern California, the media often treats hockey as a second-tier sport, but the numbers indicate otherwise. There are nearly 20,000 registered players in California, and the state is second only to Michigan in total number of adults playing the game.
Aside from the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings, the region has a long history of minor league hockey. While that is on sabbatical this year following the demise of the Long Beach Ice Dogs, a new arena in suburban Ontario, California, is expected to host an ECHL team next fall.
Youth hockey is booming, and several of the region's major midget AAA teams are among the nation's elite. The Los Angeles Junior Kings, California Wave, and LA Selects have experienced significant success over the past decade, while newcomers California Stars and SoCal Titans show early promise.
As with many markets, ice time is an issue, but new rinks continue to pop up. The Toyota Sports Center, practice home of the NHL's Kings, is one of the premier small rinks in the nation. Quality and age of other rinks vary considerably, but things appear to be on the right path.
With increasing numbers each year, hockey is stronger in Southern California than many people realize. Yet at the same time, hockey is a rarity on bar televisions, in the local media, and in the day-to-day conversation of the average resident.
More than ever, this blog is meant to be interactive -- if you have the time, please post the status of the game as a whole in your region.