The Growing Popularity of Hockey

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growing popularity of hockey
Photo by Dinur

Hockey continues to grow steadily in popularity every year, captivating fans with its fast-paced action, physicality and thrilling highlight-reel moments

Here in the U.S., the growing popularity of hockey is undeniable. There are entire regions of the country that are unshakably dedicated to the sport, creating so-called “Hockeytowns” that are the breeding grounds for the nation’s future stars on ice. Once thought to be strictly the province of only the northernmost parts of the US, hockey has been drawing huge numbers of fans—even in the Sun Belt states.

Ranking fourth among the “Big Four” major sports leagues in the US, hockey holds a special place in the hearts of sports fans across the country. And especially in Canada, the sport may be considered more of a religion than merely a game. 

The Growing Popularity of Hockey in the US

Hockey has a rich history in the United States, dating back to the late 19th century. The first formal game was played between Yale and Johns Hopkins University in 1893. The sport continues to grow steadily in popularity year after year, captivating fans with its fast-paced action, physicality and thrilling highlight-reel moments.

While it may not command quite the same level of mainstream attention as other sports such as football, baseball or basketball, hockey has a dedicated and passionate audience. It’s often been said that hockey fans are probably the most fanatical of any sport in North America.

National Favorites: Top Teams in the Limelight

When it comes to national favorites in the NHL, most hail from the “Original 6”—the six teams that existed during the NHL’s formative years. These teams have not only a strong following within their local communities, but also a significant fan base nationwide and even abroad:

  • Colorado Avalanche Although not an Original 6 team, the Centennial State has a passionate core of hockey fans. The Avalanche got to raise the coveted Stanley Cup as recently as 2022, outclassing the Tampa Bay Lightning by four games to two in the finals. (Sportsbook promos especially for hockey are hot in Colorado ever since lawmakers legalized the practice in May 2020.)
  • Boston Bruins With a storied history and die-hard support from their fans, the Bruins are one of the most beloved teams in the country. Their top performance, physical style of play and long-standing rivalries—the Montreal Canadiens to name just one—make them a perennial favorite.
  • Chicago Blackhawks The 2023 NHL Draft gave the Blackhawks the first-overall pick, selecting Connor Bedard, a highly touted center who has won several awards. Despite their prestige and support, the team failed to make the playoffs last season for the fourth consecutive time; but that doesn’t seem to detract from the unflinching dedication of Hawks followers.
  • Detroit Red Wings The Red Wings have a rich tradition and a loyal following in the Motor City. Their recent record undermines their capabilities but with Derek Lalonde, their new head coach (who was previously an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning) at the helm, next season could be the one to see their fortunes change.

Hockey Hotspots: Where the Sport Thrives

There are certain areas of the country where hockey shines and has a huge following. These hotspots have not only a strong fan base, but also boast successful teams that contribute to the local culture and identity:

  • New England The northeastern states, especially Massachusetts and New Hampshire, have a deep-rooted love for hockey. The sport is played extensively at the grassroots level, and communities come together to support their local high schools, colleges and professional teams. New England has a strong representation not only in the NHL but also the AHL, ECHL and PHF leagues.
  • Minnesota Referred to as the “State of Hockey,” Minnesota has a unique passion for the game. The state has produced numerous talented players like Phil Housley and Neal Broten, who have gone on to compete at the highest levels. The Minnesota Wild is an adored fixture of the state’s hockey-loving population.
  • Great Lakes Region Cities like Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo have a healthy hockey presence. The proximity to the Canadian border and the long-standing hockey traditions in these cooler states have contributed to their thriving hockey cultures.

Embracing the Game: Who’s in the Stands?

Hockey has a broad appeal that transcends many demographics. Like most sports, it’s traditionally viewed as a pastime predominantly enjoyed by men. But the fan base has been steadily expanding in recent years, with women and younger generations showing increased interest. Hockey provides a thrilling and action-packed experience as well as an inclusive community that resonates with fans of all ages and backgrounds.

Youth Engagement and Inclusivity

Youth participation in hockey has been steadily growing, with many communities offering leagues and programs for young players to get involved. The sport’s inclusive nature has also seen a rise in women’s hockey, with girls and women lacing up their skates in record numbers and making their mark on the ice. Too, recently there has been a push for diversity to make the game more accessible to everyone.

Fans of All Ages

Whether you play the game or watch it, hockey brings people together across generations, with families bonding over their shared love of the game and their team. If it’s grandparents passing along their passion for the sport to their grandchildren or friends gathering to cheer on their favorite team, hockey has a way of creating lasting memories and connections and is growing in popularity every year. 

Hockey has woven itself into the very fabric of American sports culture, engrossing fans from coast to coast. From the intense rivalries and historic legacies of the biggest teams to the thriving hockey communities, the popularity of hockey in the US knows no bounds and continues to grow in popularity. Think about it: who could have ever imagined that a team based in the middle of the desert would draw huge crowds, and even get to lift the Stanley Cup in 2023?

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