Monarchs Celebrate With USA Hockey This Weekend
In the United States, the sport of hockey has seen a noticeable growth in popularity at all levels over the last 25 years. That growth has been accredited partially to the success of stars at the NHL level, as well as Olympic and tournament play.
“I think you’re seeing a lot of success in US-born players in the last few years,” said Monarchs forward Brian O’Neill who is from Yardley, Pennsylvania. “You can see that with the Olympic performance we had the last time around. We almost beat (team) Canada which was a big accomplishment. So I think you’re going to see a positive trend over the next decade. It will continue to get better and better, and we’ll get more players in the NHL. Obviously, it starts at the root level, with youth hockey, and I think USA Hockey is doing a really good job and they’re starting to get results.”
This weekend marks the sixth annual Hockey Weekend Across America. For those that are new to this festive weekend, it is a celebration of ice hockey in the United States at every level of competition.
The three day celebration begins this Friday with each day having its own theme. Friday is “Wear Your Favorite Jersey Day” (also known as ‘wear your Monarchs jersey’ day) as fans show off their hockey pride. Saturday will be known as “Try Hockey For A Day” as some 200 rinks in the United States will be offering free clinics for children to play hockey for the first time. NBC will help to tell the stories of local heroes as a part of the “Local Hockey Heroes” theme this Sunday as Hockey Weekend festivities come to a close.
“To have any recognition for the sport especially these three days makes it a special feature for the sport in the United States,” said Monarchs goaltender Peter Mannino who is a Farmington Hills, Michigan native. “To have that (event) out there with all the other sports we have in this country that has everything and having these three different days and getting people involved is great.”
Hockey Weekend Across America brings attention not only to the impact of US-born players at a professional level but the growing involvement our country has seen through the ranks of youth hockey over the last couple decades. This growing involvement has also spread throughout the country and has resulted in hockey rinks sprouting up in “non-traditional” hockey markets.
“It’s definitely expanding,” said Monarchs defenseman and Chicago, Illinois native Vincent Loverde. “You can see the growth in non-traditional hockey states, such as California, Texas and other southern states. It’s definitely expanding and it’s good for the game.”
O’Neill has also observed the trend of hockey growing in the “traditional” hockey markets as well as in areas of the United States that football, basketball and baseball have ruled.
“I think you obviously have your hotbeds around the country,” said O’Neill, who played his college hockey at Yale University. “But you’re starting to see kids coming from California, down south, I think (the Kings recent Stanley Cup victory) goes well for the popularity. Hopefully, that will continue and we can get more kids playing down south and get them interested in the game.”
This weekend’s celebration aims to continue the growth of the sport by inviting kids nationwide to try the game for free. On Saturday, some 200 rinks in the United States will participate in Try Hockey Day, presented by the National Hockey League, as they will be offering free clinics for children to play hockey for the first time. Locally, the Chelmsford Forum in North Billerica, Massachusetts and Plymouth State University’s Hanaway Arena will be participating with free clinics starting at 12:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m., respectively.
“I definitely think it’s going to improve,” said Loverde. “I think of the impact it’s had and the levels of growth it’s had over the last four or five years and definitely think it’s on the upswing, and it’s going to (continue to) be growing in the near future.”
Manchester has two home games this weekend as part of the Hockey Weekend Across America celebration when they host the St. John’s IceCaps for a two-game series on Friday and Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. The Monarchs are offering discounted tickets for the two games as a part of the special weekend. To learn more go to www.monarchsjungle.com/hwaa and purchase your $10 tickets to this weekend’s games.