It has been a great couple of weeks for USA Hockey, and it is about to get a whole lot better in the near future.
The Americans captured both the U20 and U17 World Hockey Championships. Back in April they won the U18 world tourney, too, giving them 3 gold medal titles at that tournament in the last 5 years.
Just as impressive is the growth of the game in terms of where the players are coming from. The U20 roster had players from 9 different states, including warm weather locations like Nevada, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Heck, Canada even had a U20 player, Brandon Kozun, who was born in Los Angeles.
Canadians better be paying attention. We love to point out the failings of southern NHL markets to attract fans as evidence Americans don't care about hockey, but we are seeing a generation of American youth not only loving this game, but excelling at it at the most elite levels.
Call it the Gretzky Effect. Ever since his joining the Los Angeles Kings in 1989, American kids took up the great game. Kids from all over the country, not just Minnesota or Michigan or Massachusetts. They are taking it seriously, opting for Canadian junior ranks rather than American college scholarships because their goal is the NHL. Canada's western junior league, the WHL, is quickly filling up with kids from California, Arizona, even Texas
And now that generation of kids is taking over international youth hockey. Soon they will infiltrating the NHL, skyrocketing the percentage of American NHLers from about 19% significantly higher gains. And then it is only a matter of time before they win Olympic or World Cup championships.
This will be the decade of American hockey.