It's always nice when a hunch or a feeling you have can be backed up by solid fact. Especially when it's about the explosive growth of youth hockey in Oklahoma.
Chris Peters, writer for the fantastic blog The United States of Hockey, highlighted some very interesting data that was produced by the people at USA Hockey that compounded what so many people in non-traditional hockey markets assumed as fact. Since the 1990-1991 season youth hockey in the US has grown 143.22%. Other than the state of Hawaii, every single state experienced positive growth.
If you've spent any time at an Oklahoma City Barons game you've seen the pee wee players in the team introductions, seen them skate at intermissions, and watched as they became an integral part of representing hockey in the state. That's why it comes as no surprise that since 1991 hockey registrations in Oklahoma are nearly six times greater than the national average in terms of growth percentages. Nearly 20 years ago only 109 kids were registered with the USA Hockey Association in Oklahoma. Today, there are 1,051. That's a whopping 864.2% increase.
Chris Peters had this to say about the number:
Here's another shocker for me. Oklahoma's growing hockey landscape is really impressive and it undoubtedly will only continue to get better. Home of the CHL's Tulsa Oilers, one of the longest-running Southwestern professional teams, and now the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons, excitement is building. Couple those clubs with two quality ACHA Division I teams at both Oklahoma and Central Oklahoma and there's no shortage of exposure for the game. This was another pleasant surprise for me, but I'd expect the surprises to keep on coming out of OK
I too find excitement in this trend. Both the Central League Blazers and the Oilers laid a foundation for youth hockey in this state, but the Barons will most certainly strengthen it. I look forward to digesting this same information in another ten years because I believe the growth not only continues, but exceeds even the most outrageous hunch.