DALLAS, Tx. -- The growth of hockey in the United States is alive and well according to 2012 Lester Patrick Trophy recipients Dick Patrick and Bob Chase-Wallenstein.
"Hockey has grown tremendously the past 30 years or so," Patrick said. "When [U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee] Mike Modano was coming up through the system, the best players in the United States were from Minnesota and Detroit, but now they're coming from all over, including Washington, California and Dallas."
Modano can vividly recall the first time he learned how Americans were viewed overseas.
"I didn't know the impact it had until I went to Moscow in 1987 to play in the World Junior Championship and see the impact, internationally, that we had and how people viewed American hockey players," Modano said. "That perception they had about us … we were so young at the time that we wanted to change that perception. It was almost like the Europeans didn't think we belonged on their level. We always wanted to prove to other countries that we could play with anyone."
Wayne Gretzky Award winner Murray Costello believes American players have been extremely impressive over the years.
"I keep telling Bob Nicholson [President and Chief Executive Officer of Hockey Canada], the more that those American blue chip players begin to pick our game over football and baseball, we're going to be in big trouble," Costello said. "His answer is always the same, 'It's no big trouble. It's just going to cause us to dig deeper and do it better as the standard of the game goes up'. And that's a good thing."
When asked what Costello has meant to the growth of hockey in this country, USA Hockey assistant executive director of hockey operations, Jim Johannson, queued up the ultimate response.
"Murray is a guy that was in the trenches for so long in the growth and development of the game as a whole," Johannson told NHL.com. "Certainly, he had the Canadian roots, but knowing that this game had to expand worldwide was huge. For me, he's been a guy who's provided a real strong mentorship.
"When I got into the international scene, he was vital … he was a very highly respected man that represents hockey as a body and I think it's fitting that he receives a tribute not only for what he's meant for USA Hockey internationally for the game and his wisdom."
Costello helped USA Hockey and Hockey Canada collaborate on coaching education projects in the late 1970s. The basis for the U.S.-Canada junior transfer agreement also dates back to Costello's cooperation with USA Hockey executives.
"His patience in handling the continued growth and reach of the game worldwide, while always understanding the business of hockey was incredible and we are forever grateful for that," Johannson said.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale