USA Hockey releases troubling growth numbers


At USA Hockey’s recent Winter Meeting, the Membership Development Department unveiled a report which detailed the organization’s efforts to grow membership in the 8 and under category of players.

According to the report, the 8U category experienced a 13 percent drop in players from 107,387 in 2011-12 to 93,123 in 2012-13 (as of Nov. 29, 2012).

This is a troubling statistic for USA Hockey’s efforts to grow the game at the beginner level. What can be done to reverse this trend and increase participation in hockey at the youngest ages?

Following is the entire USA Hockey report obtained by Let’s Play Hockey.


The Membership Development department continues to focus on inviting parents of four to eight year olds to bring their children to a rink. Several strategies, partnerships and relationships are utilized in these efforts, with the common goal of helping our local associations deliver the best youth sports experience in their community.

This past season, USA Hockey established another historical benchmark with its largest ever membership total for the 8-and-under age category by finishing with 107,387 boys and girls registered.

Utilizing the 2 and 2 Challenge (explained below), the stated goal for the 8 and under age category for this season is 112,875. As of November 29, 2012 there were 93,123 members registered with USA Hockey in this age category. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we will reach our stated goal this season due to the current situation in the larger hockey world.

The major push for this season was to lead local associations to achieving their 2 and 2 Challenge Goals through a comprehensive growth program under the 2 and 2 Challenge name. The 2 and 2 Challenge Goals are a call to action for local associations to grow participation by acquiring two new players and retaining two more players from last season’s total.

Since June, the Membership Development department has been focused on communicating directly with the 1,372 local associations that register 8-and-under players with USA Hockey.

The 330 local associations that accepted the 2 and 2 Challenge are following a blueprint by participating in national programs that drive growth by utilizing retention, acquisition and conversion. Associations that complete the Challenge will be nationally recognized and rewarded with OneGoal starter equipment.

For a local association to truly experience growth, they need to retain players in their 8 and under programs and invite families back to the rink. The most effective and efficient way to get more families to return to the rink is through a personal invitation. As a result, Welcome Back Week provides direction to our local associations on retaining players. To encourage registration, USA Hockey utilized an email campaign to remind busy parents that the youth hockey season is about to start. To follow up the email campaign, all parents that had not yet registered for the 2012-13 season then received a recorded phone message from an American born NHL player by market or Olympian Kelli Stack. Over 35,000 phone calls went out to 8-and-under parents around the country.

Finally, during Welcome Back Week (September 17-23), volunteers organized phone call programs to reach out to every player who skated last season but was not yet registered for the 2012-13 season. Associations were provided with lists of players to contact, along with instruction on how to run a successful phone call program. Feedback was positive from all participants and call recipients.

USA Hockey and the NHL’s second “Come Play Hockey Month” took place in November. There were events throughout the month that will celebrate hockey including activities for youth, sled/disabled, girls/women and adult.

Try Hockey For Free Day on Saturday, November 3 provided youth hockey associations a national platform that introduced over 10,000 new kids to the sport at 454 rinks across 47 states. Host locations received education on how to run a successful Try Hockey For Free program as well as marketing tools, NHL/USA Hockey jerseys, goodie bags and promotional materials.

Another new emphasis with Try Hockey For Free Day was to educate local associations on converting more kids to youth hockey. Host sites were encouraged to hold a low-cost, low-commitment transition program beginning after Try Hockey Day to convert new families to their youth hockey program. USA Hockey provided best practices on developing a program as well as on-ice practice plans.

With the support of 137 local associations and rinks, USA Hockey helped celebrate, build awareness and grow girls’ hockey as part of the IIHF Girls’ Hockey Weekend. Host locations received girls’ specific marketing materials and promotional items for their event. The event was used as an opportunity for local volunteers to find new and creative ways to celebrate their participating girls. New ideas were collected to be shared with all local programs and varied from Try Hockey For Free, mother/daughter day at the rink, invite a friend and season kick-off parties.

Finally, in an effort to educate, inform and retain the parents of young players, USA Hockey has established the “USA Hockey Parents’ Community”. This web-based platform speaks directly to the parents of 8-and-under players, providing them with information to enhance their youth hockey experience and help establish them as long-term hockey families.

The mission of Membership Development is “to drive USA Hockey grassroots membership growth and retention initiatives and further develop ice hockey in the United States.” By focusing on the four to eight year old category and promoting both acquisition and retention, a solid strategy is in place to achieve long-term, sustained membership growth.

Submitted by: Pat Kelleher, Assistant Executive Director, Development


USA Hockey - Total Membership for Ages 8 and Under

  07-08 08-09
09-10 10-11 11-12 12-13 (GOAL)
TOTAL 89423 91622 95775 105394 107387 112875
% increase -0.6% 2.5% 4.5% 10.0% 1.9% 5.1%
# increase -533 2199 4153 9619 1993 5488