While the number of events taking place during Hockey Weekend Across America are massive in scope, the message surrounding it is simple.
"Get more people to play the game and to make the game safer," USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean said, appearing as a guest on Thursday night's "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman."
In its fifth year, HWAA commences Friday with "Wear Your Favorite Hockey Jersey Day," followed by "Try Hockey Day" on Saturday, with Ogrean estimating about 200 rinks in 41 states across the country offering free clinics that will introduce upwards of 4,000 kids to the game.
On Sunday, NHL fans will be treated to a day-long hockey smorgasbord courtesy of NBC and the NBC Sports Network, highlighted by the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins taking on the Minnesota Wild.
With hockey in the United States more popular than ever, Ogrean was asked to explain USA Hockey's development model.
"It's a different approach to the sport and I think in some parts of the country it was viewed perhaps as being a bit radical," he said. "The whole intention is to get people to learn the game better, love it more, stay with it longer. It's a big emphasis at the entry level, at the mite level, in playing cross-ice hockey so that players have actual puck-on-the-stick time to learn skills instead of chasing it all around the ice. There's a concerted effort to teach body checking once they get a little bit older in a progressive style and then to phase in the implementation of that.
"But we hope that if people learn the game better and learn to love it more, they're going to stay with it longer -- not just to the point where maybe we have more players at the midget and junior level, but even players up through adulthood. And we think it's the sort of thing which quite frankly not only is going to be emulated by other sports, but against which we're going to be able to measure a very, very positive impact in the not-too-distant future."