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The NHL and NHL Players’ Association Industry Growth Fund, a catalyst for growing the sport, is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

The fund has dedicated more than $180 million to develop programming, create initiatives, host events and provide education that drives awareness and brings hockey communities together.

Its imprint can be found in its support from Learn to Play programs to Future Goals educational curriculum, to the First Shift initiative that seeks to introduce more women, the BIPOC community and other underrepresented fans to the sport.

Throughout the next six months, the NHL and NHLPA will celebrate the anniversary by highlighting some of the impactful programs through storytelling and other content.

“It has been incredible to witness the Industry Growth Fund’s impact in grassroots and youth programming since its launch in 2013,” Rob Knesaurek, NHL senior vice president, youth development and industry growth said. “More important, the IGF’s success over the 10 years of existence demonstrated how strategic investments allow for more opportunities to make our game more accessible to a diverse audience.”

Chris Campoli, NHLPA divisional player representative, said that “As a leader in the youth hockey and community space, IGF programming seeks to create and develop new hockey fans, while continuing to build and manage relationships focused on growing the game on the global stage.”

Celebrate 10 Years of NHL/NHLPA Industry Growth Fund

Established as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2013, and supported by every NHL team, the IGF was created to accelerate the development and support League and club business initiatives and projects that promote long-term fan development and increase participation at all levels of hockey with an emphasis on youth.

But Knesaurek and Campoli say the fund has become much more over the years.

“Back when we drew it up, yeah, we wanted to create a flagship program, a league wide Learn To Play on the ice experience to connect kids in local markets to the Clubs, and more importantly, to the Players,” Campoli said. “It has taken many different turns. Clubs have gotten more creative the way they’re applying for dollars from the fund. It’s exciting for me to see it come full circle from that, I would say like, Ma and Pa shop of the Learn to Play, First Shift and traditional hockey to different programs appealing to different kids and different markets.”

More than $105 million in NHL club grant applications has funded more than 230 hockey and ball hockey programs along with rink development, fitness, education, life skills and other initiatives.

The IFG has invested $45 million in diversity, equity and inclusion programming, including girls hockey, the Hockey Is For Everyone initiatives and special projects; $33 million to support Learn to Play and First Shift programs.

LTP-NY group picture

Inspired by Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, the IFG’s Learn to Play program debuted in 2014 and has grown to become a lynchpin for growing the game at the youth level.

Today, Learn to Play has 120,000 registered players across the U.S. In Canada, the NHL/NHLPA Bauer First Shift program has 45,000 players, including more than 15,000 girls.

“It’s game-changing for us,” John Colombo, vice president of the Florida Panthers Foundation and Community Relations said. “It’s allowed us to do a lot of programs and impact a lot of kids that we might not otherwise be able to impact. Introduce hockey into schools, introduce hockey to adults, introduce hockey to girls. All of our programs have been amplified times ten because of the introduction of the IGF.”

Panthers STEM Day

And the impetus was Crosby, who founded the Little Penguins Learn to Play Hockey in 2008 as an introductory program for children ages 5 to 9. Since then, the Little Penguins has drawn more than 13,000 kids, including Arizona Coyotes forward Logan Cooley, who participated in the program when he was 5 years old. The Coyotes selected Cooley with the No. 3 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft.

“Grassroots were so important to kids enjoying the game, bringing kids into it at an early age, I thought it was important,” Crosby said last season.

“I just knew the impact it had on me as a kid, and I knew how important the volunteers and coaches and everyone that was around growing up was to me and my family…it really was a sense of community.”

The IFG reaches into the classroom with its $26 million support for Future Goals, which uses the game of hockey as a prism to teach critical science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills to students grades 4-7.

Nearly four million students at more than 22,100 schools have received 7.58 million hours of learning through Future Goals. Over the past four seasons, the NHL, NHLPA, and SAP have recognized 260 teachers through the Future Goals Most Valuable Teacher Program.

The Future Goals Most Valuable Teacher Program will recognize 60 teachers (20 per month), who use the Future Goals Hockey Scholar program, starting Jan. 2 through March 31.


Since the program’s inception, more than $210,000 in Technology and Environmental Sustainability Resources has been awarded to the winning teacher’s school district.

The IGF has made its imprint internationally with its support of the Amerigol LATAM Cup, an annual tournament that features teams representing Latin American, Caribbean and other developing ice hockey countries and territories.

It’s held at the Florida Panthers IceDen, the NHL team’s practice facility. The Dallas Stars hosted a LATAM Cup spring tournament in May 2022. Successful showings at the LATAM Cup fall tournaments helped Puerto Rico gain International Ice Hockey Federation associate membership in September 2022 and got Colombia’s men’s and women’s teams invited to participate in IIHF Development Cup tournaments in 2022.

The men won the tournament in Fussen, Germany, in May 2022 and the women won in Kuwait City in November 2022. It was the first time each team, representing a country without an ice rink, played outside of North or South America.

“One area we have an incredible opportunity is international hockey,” Campoli said. “Our game is a global game, so how can IGF assist that growth and help pave that path? As we embark on what seems to be the next generation of international opportunities – World Cups, possible Olympics, things like that – how can this fund play a role in to connect with people we haven’t connected with yet?”

Knesaurek and Campoli said they look forward to the IGF’s next 10 years and to the direction the fund leads hockey.

“I see the fund evolving as the market evolves, leveraging things like technology…leveraging different ice surfaces, entry into playing,” Knesaurek said. “I just see the fund continuing to be an important vehicle to growth and I think as society and community evolve, so will our perspective on how we apply the funds.”

Montreal Canadiens locker room visit