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Vegas Community Trying Hockey In Record Numbers

The Golden Knights hosted Try Hockey For Free in February

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

It's been a trend throughout the United States.

Over the past two decades, as the amount of NHL teams in the U.S. Sunbelt has grown from just the Los Angeles Kings until 1991, to nine when the Golden Knights' entered the league, youth hockey participation has drastically grown in nontraditional hockey markets.

The general theme has been that as NHL teams have arrive in a marketplace, youth hockey numbers immediately skyrocket. It's this sort of long-term growth that has allowed California to produce more NHL players than Wisconsin, for example, and Scottsdale, Ariz. native Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs) to be having arguably the best rookie season ever by an American in 2016-17.

Both of these trends are widely accepted as being a product of the initiatives that NHL teams in these markets have undertaken over the past two decades.

While other markets have already experienced this hockey boom, it's just beginning to take hold in Las Vegas.

An early sign that Las Vegas can follow suit and establish itself as a hotbed for hockey came in February, when the Golden Knights teamed up with USA Hockey to host "Try Hockey For Free" at the Las Vegas Ice Center.

On February 25, more than 200 children ages 4-9 showed up to try hockey at no cost, with equipment provided by USA Hockey. This turnout was several times the national average for similar events, of which several hundred were held throughout the country the final weekend of February.

Tweet from @GoldenKnights: It doesn't get any better than this. #BoldInGold pic.twitter.com/Zux5kAk2Gh

 

"These are really huge numbers," USA Hockey Director, Membership Development Kevin Erlenbach said. "It just shows how excited and hungry people are for ice hockey, to not only watch the team, but play and be part of it. "It's definitely a hockey community ready to blow up.

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"As someone who loves hockey, to see all these kids with smiles on their faces. But not just the kids, but to watch the parents snap the pictures. The fact that everyone's having fun and enjoying themselves, it's huge."

Another party that was impressed by the Vegas community's thirst to play hockey was Keith Veronesi, who represented the Golden Knights' hockey operations department and participated with the children on the ice throughout the afternoon.

 

Video: Drone View Of The Golden Knights' Practice Facility

 

 

"Every event that's held, every time hockey is out in the community, it seems to blow every expectation away," Veronesi said. "People are real fantastic. It's been a privilege to be part of this whole thing.

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"You know, the fans and the community just continue to support everything. And you see kids at such a young age that have never been on the ice before so enthusiastic, so excited. I think it's just only going to get better from here."

As the Golden Knights continue to build the organization's infrastructure, the team will continue to pursue initiatives that promote youth hockey participation and make the sport more accessible to the public.

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The organization's support for youth hockey will be highlighted by the opening of the team's practice facility later this year. Besides hosting the NHL Golden Knights and the franchise's business headquarters, the two ice sheet, 146,000 square-foot facility will also serve as a hub for youth hockey throughout the region.

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Foremost in the youth hockey programs housed by the practice facility will be the Nevada Storm, who the Golden Knights signed a partnership with on April 4.

 

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Under this agreement, the Storm will be rebranded as the "Vegas Junior Golden Knights," allowing the area's primary youth hockey organization to wear the same colors and logo as the NHL squad.

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"We have a long-term commitment to growing the sport of hockey in our community, especially at the youth level," Vegas Golden Knights senior vice president Murray Craven said. "The Nevada Storm organization has done an incredible job in the youth hockey space and we believe this strategic partnership will take youth hockey in Southern Nevada to new heights in terms of participation, interest and quality.

"We hope kids will be proud to share the same Vegas Golden Knights name, colors and logos as our NHL players."

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