The Frozen South

February 18, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Frozen South

This isn’t ski-related, but since we love all things winter sports…

From today’s New York Times:

Hockey is now one of the fastest-growing sports in America, according to USA Hockey, with registrations more than doubling in the past two decades. In fact, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association claims that it is the second fastest growing sport, after fast-pitch softball.

But it’s not growing in the places you would expect it.

Minnesota, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New York used to be America’s hockey powerhouses, and though they still are hotbeds of hockey activity, hockey has actually declined in the past decade in all of those places but Minnesota.

The states where hockey is exploding in popularity: North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, Washington DC.

What?

Yes, hockey did start out as a Canadian import, creeping across our northern border (much like Celine Dion). But it has grown strong roots in America, even in warmer climes.

As the New York Times reports:

Except for Kentucky, all those have a relatively new or newly popular N.H.L. team in the state or nearby.

The temperate West Coast has seen a similar surge.

“Since the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks arrived in the early 1990s, the number of registered players in the Pacific region has increased by 240 percent,” Ogrean said. “The fact that we now have N.H.L. teams in so many parts of the country has been so great for us.”

The growth rates in Virginia and the District of Columbia (the highest at 683 percent, but with only 742 registered players last year) might have been spurred by the recent success of the Washington Capitals. North Carolina has the Hurricanes, based in Raleigh since 1999. Florida’s nearly 11,000 players can root for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers; both arrived in the mid-’90s. A majority of Texas’ nearly 11,000 players are from the Dallas area, where the Stars landed in 1993, fueling the construction of several ice rinks, six built by the club itself.

This has also translated into an NHL with more American players than ever before.

The bottom line: Hockey is now almost as American as, well, baseball, from sea to warm shining sea.

And with the possible opening of America’s first indoor ski area in New Jersey (this has been built and vacant for years, though, so don’t bet on it), could skiing in the deep south be far behind? (You may be surprised to learn that there already exist a handful of bonafide, outdoor ski areas in the south, in states like West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama)

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