ARLINGTON, Va. - USA Hockey recently announced a record 115,694 participants at the 8-and-Under (8U) level for the 2016-17 season, highlighted by the largest year-over-year 8U participation in the Potomac Valley affiliate, consisting of Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia (+1,230). During the past five seasons (2012-13 through 2016-17), the total number of 8U players in the Potomac Valley has risen from 2,541 to 3,873, a 52% increase.
The overall results marked USA Hockey's third-consecutive year-over-year 8U participation increase and seventh-consecutive year exceeding 100,000 participants at the 8U level. The total includes a record number of first-year 8U participants (52,076), a record number of returning 8U participants (63,618) and a record number of female 8U participants (20,558).
The record 8U participation total represented an increase of nearly 8,000 players, a boost due in part to a new Learn to Play (LTP) program launched by the NHL and NHLPA with support from USA Hockey.
In addition, according to USA Hockey, the total number of hockey players in the Potomac Valley topped 22,000 for the first time (22,231). During the past five seasons, the total number of players in the Potomac Valley has increased by 15% (from 19,304 in 2012-13 to 22,231 in 2016-17). The 2016-17 season also marked the second season in the past three that the Potomac Valley posted a year-over-year gain of more than 1,100 players. The 2016-17 season marked the first time that Maryland topped 10,000 total players. Virginia eclipsed the 10,000 mark for the first time in 2014-15.
The Capitals support of youth and amateur hockey in the region throughout the 2016-17 season included:
Learn to Play: In conjunction with the National Hockey League, the Washington Capitals launched Learn to Play programming in September at 25 area rinks, amongst the highest number of participating program rinks in the NHL. Each participating rink provided affordable LTP programming with the goal of increasing participation in ice hockey. Open to first-time participants, the LTP initiative also provided free head-to-toe equipment to children ages four to eight in an effort to reduce cost barriers associated with an introductory program.
Hockey School: The Capitals hosted 30 Hockey Schools throughout the region during the 2016-17 season. The Hockey School program introduces second- through sixth-grade students to the sport of street hockey and is a free program designed to be instructional, interactive and fun. The Capitals have hosted more than 200 clinics and reached more than 30,000 students in the Washington, D.C., area through the team's Hockey School program since its inception in 2007.
Video: Learn more about the Capitals Hockey School Program
Street Hockey Programming: The Capitals continued a partnership with DC Public Schools that launched in February 2016, introducing more than 48,000 students across 111 schools to hockey through a multi-week street-hockey curriculum. The Capitals also refurbished three outdoor street hockey rinks in Maryland and Virginia. To further encourage the growth of the game, surrounding schools received a full set of street hockey equipment in conjunction with the refurbishment.
Youth Hockey Shootout: Throughout the summer of 2016, more than 750 youth hockey participants of all ages competed in a shootout competition at six partner rinks. Finalists from Maryland and Virginia were invited to compete in the finals during intermission of a Caps game. Winners of the Squirt (10U) division were sent to a league-wide competition that took place at the NHL All-Star Weekend in LA. The other age groups participated in a local VIP experience that included a behind the scenes look at the arena as well as a chance to learn shootout tips from forward T.J. Oshie and goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
Video: 2016-17 PeeWee Shootout Final
Mite Jamboree: All Chesapeake Bay Hockey League Mite (8U) teams were invited to play in a preseason jamboree, held at the Prince William Ice Center, in October. Teams played three games and received an event T-shirt from the Capitals. 33 teams and more than 300 kids participated.
College Combine and Fair: More than 125 local high school players participated in a combine to showcase their talents for college coaches and scouts, with some chosen to participate in a showcase scrimmage. An educational event followed to highlight the different levels of collegiate hockey and provide an opportunity for attendees to meet coaches and learn about the schools. More than 20 schools were in attendance.
Video: Caps Youth Hockey College Hockey Combine and Fair
Captain's Brunch: The Washington Capitals hosted the Captain's Brunch, an inaugural recognition event at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, to honor the captain's "C" of all the local high school teams. The students enjoyed brunch while watching Caps practice. All of the captains met Capitals alumnus Alan May, received a commemorative coin and attended a leadership discussion by Capitals coach Barry Trotz. More than 50 captains were in attendance.
High School Hockey Championships: In February the Capitals sponsored the Capitals Cup High School Championships. The Northern Virginia Scholastic Hockey League, Maryland Student Hockey League, Mid-Atlantic Girls Hockey League, Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League, and the Capital Scholastic Hockey League conducted their respective playoff tournaments, with the winners receiving the designation as "Capitals Cup" winners. The Washington Capitals and MSE Foundation provided championship hats and medals to the winning teams as well as honored them for the year at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex on the High School Wall of Fame.
JWHL Challenge Cup: The Capitals and Washington Pride hosted the annual Junior Women's Hockey League (JWHL) Challenge Cup at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in February. A free clinic was offered to local special hockey players as part of the JWHL Challenge Cup and their partnership with the Capitals youth hockey department.
Video: JWHL All-Stars host clinic for special needs team
Leveling The Playing Field: Through a donation program with the support of MSE Foundation, Leveling the Playing Field (LPF) collected $79,205 worth of equipment at Capitals rink partner rinks and donated $73,841 in equipment to schools and sports organizations in 2016. LPF was founded to give underprivileged children the opportunity to enjoy athletic involvement. By collecting and distributing donated equipment, LPF allows youth sports organizations to redirect funds they had allocated for the purchase of gear for other purposes.
Fort Dupont: MSE Foundation donated $12,000 to the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club this year and has donated $187,400 to them since 2003. Fort Dupont Ice Arena is the only full-size indoor ice arena in Washington, D.C., and is home to the Cannons, the oldest minority youth hockey program in North America. The program's goal is to teach young people discipline, self-esteem and a sense of purpose and to offer an incentive to excel academically. The Foundation also hosts an annual service project at Fort Dupont Ice Arena, donating $5,000 each year to the arena for the event.
Special Hockey: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin hosted more than 60 American Special Hockey Association (ASHA) program participants for a skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in the fall. In addition MSE Foundation donated more than $9,000 to ASHA through an auction that featured Russian-American themed Bauer Vapor 1X skates worn by Ovechkin during pregame warmups on March 23.The Capitals also teamed up with children's charity Dreams for Kids for the eighth consecutive year in February, hoisting an Extreme Recess Hockey Clinic at Kettler for children with physical and developmental disabilities.
Video: Ovi skates with the ASHA at Kettler Capitals Iceplex
UP2US: MSE Foundation funds two hockey coaches at Fort Dupont through the Coach Across America program at UP2US, an organization dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable youth by hiring and training coaches who can inspire their success both inside and outside of sports.
PVAHA Grant: For the eighth year in a row, the Washington Capitals partnered with the Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association (PVAHA), with MSE Foundation providing a $25,000 grant. This money helps fund the John Crerar Hockey Development and Chris Dernetz Disabled Hockey grant programs and was distributed to multiple area hockey programs during the 2016-17 season. Since 2009 the Capitals have donated nearly $200,000 to PVAHA.
Tucker Road Ducks: MSE Foundation donated $5,300 to the Tucker Road Ducks to help them reach their fundraising goal for equipment. The Tucker Road Youth Hockey Program, more commonly known as the Ducks, play out of Tucker Road Ice Rink in Fort Washington, Md., which was destroyed by a fire on Jan. 4. The MSE Foundation donation garnered attention from Meghan Duggan, who plays for the National Women's Hockey League's (NWHL) Boston Pride and serves as the captain of the U.S. Women's National Team. Duggan donated an additional $1,000 in equipment through CCM. The Ducks continue to accept donations online at GoFundMe.com.
For more information visit WashCaps.com and MonumentalFoundation.org.