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Hockey Day

Hockey Week Across America going strong

Events highlight growth of sport in United States

by David Satriano @DavidSatriano / Staff Writer

Nearly a decade after it began, Hockey Week Across America is going strong.

The event, which began in 2008, has helped promote the game in the United States. Sunday was Hockey Day in America, with four nationally televised games; Friday is Wear Your Favorite Jersey Day, and Saturday is Try Hockey For Free Day.

One of the more famous alumni of the U.S. National Development Team, which was founded in 1996, is Patrick Kane, who won gold at the 2006 World Junior Championship.

"For me at that age, to go into a program like that at 15-16 years old ... I think it was great for me," the Chicago Blackhawks forward said. "I had a really great time there, and I think looking back, it couldn't have worked out any better for me to go to that program for two years and learn a lot about how the game should be played to get to the next level. I think it had a huge impact on my development."

Kane, who has won the Stanley Cup three times and recently became the first U.S.-born player to score at least 20 goals in each of his first 10 NHL seasons, helped the United States win a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"It seems like we're almost at a 50 percent growth rate since myself and Jonathan Toews have arrived in Chicago (in 2007)," Kane said. "It's fun to see the excitement they have about playing hockey, especially given the success that the Blackhawks have had here. I think that's helped it come a long way."

A record was established at the U-8 level with more than 107,000 participants in the United States. More than 73,000 females of all ages participated in organized hockey in the United States this past year, up 20 percent from a decade ago.

"It's a fun sport that you want to share with everyone, and I hope everyone continues to sign up and the numbers continue to grow," said Hilary Knight, a two-time Olympic silver medalist with the United States and six-time winner at the IIHF World Championships. "It's a really exciting time to be involved in women's hockey.

"I get to play the sport all the time, so I'm always excited about playing it, but all the events and kids being able to try the game for free and wear your favorite jersey on Friday is a great week to celebrate the sport. Over the years, USA Hockey has made it a lot easier to be able to try hockey and try it for free. Hockey Week Across America is a great starting point for that."

Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, has spent 20 years with the organization.

"The sport is in good shape (in America) and it is getting better," Ogrean said. "[Setting a record for participation of 8-and-under] is extremely important because that is the foundation, the core of the pyramid of building players for [the] game for life.

"Once our kids begin playing this game, we want to make sure they have a good experience and stay with it, and that's where the American Developmental model has become important to us. ... It's great to see the results of that in our retention at the higher age levels."

Ogrean announced that Guy Gosselin was named coach for the U.S. National Sled Team for the 2017 International Paralympic Committee Hockey World Championship. Gosselin took over for Jeff Sauer, who died earlier this month.

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