Earlier this month, USA Hockey featured an in-depth story on the growth of hockey in central Ohio, and how the area's local organizations are working together to make it happen.
By now, you've heard about the sport's rise in the area: before the Blue Jackets were born (mid-to-late 1990s), there were 150 registered youth hockey players in only one organization, the Capital Area Hockey Association, known as CAHA for short.
In the story, you hear from some of the most prominent figures involved in Columbus hockey, including Gord Rivington, director of the Columbus Chill Youth Hockey Association.
Here's an excerpt from the piece:
J.D. Kershaw, the director of marketing for the Blue Jackets, has shared with youth hockey leaders and the local media his experience working in San Jose when the Sharks got hot.
“He said a big part of it is the success of the big team,” Rivington said.
Rivington witnessed that first-hand when the Blue Jackets made their second Stanley Cup playoffs appearance in 2014, losing in the first round.
“We’ve all seen the spike,” Rivington said. “The year they made the playoffs, the 4-year-old kids the next year were all knocking on the door to play hockey.”
Before they can grow much, the Chill, the CAHA and the three smaller youth organizations — Easton, Newark and the City League — know they need a plan for where to put the players.
One of the first collective projects is to study available ice time and whether it is being used properly. They have sought assistance from USA Hockey and the Blue Jackets in analyzing the information they are collecting.
“One thing that’s become clear to some of the organizations is that even if you had a busload of new kids come tomorrow, you wouldn’t have enough ice for them,” Rivington said.
The group has sought creative suggestions from the Blue Jackets, the strongest supporter of Columbus youth hockey through the Blue Jackets Foundation, which has put about $2 million into the game’s development, according to a 2014 Columbus Dispatch story.
One of the issues is that, while youth hockey has grown exponentially during the Blue Jackets era, adult hockey has grown even faster. The adult leagues have crept into some of the time traditionally used for youth hockey, in part because of their willingness to pay for expensive ice time.
Rivington said youth hockey already can be an expensive proposition, so there are challenges to keep ice costs down while getting the time that is most attractive to families.
CLICK HERE to read the full story on USAHockey.com.