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2002 Olympics Spurred Massive Hockey Growth In Utah

2002 Winter Olympic Games : Salt Lake City, 2/24/02, West Valley City, Utah, United States --- Us Men'S Hockey Player John Leclair (L) And Canada'S Owen Nolan During The Gold Medal Hockey Game Between The Usa And Canada At The 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Canada Won The Gold Medal By Defeating The Us, 5-2. --- Photo By Kim Kulish/Corbis Sabajeux Olympiques D' Hiver, Olympische Spelen, (Photo by Tim De Waele/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah –  The first memory I have of a mention of Salt Lake pursuing the 2002 Olympics was my senior year at Murray High, in 1991. At that time, Utah only had two full-time hockey rinks and under 8,000 registered hockey players and officials in the entire Rocky Mountain Region.

By 1995, The Ice Sheet in Ogden, Steiner, Murray, Provo, Acord and the Olympic Oval were soon to be opened.

Hockey in Utah would never be the same.

Ogden is now a double sheet. There are sheets of ice in Park City, Logan, Cedar City and rumors of new rinks in the Summit County area, Riverton and elsewhere are always floating around.

Ice time in Utah is sold out during the season.

Now, there are over 54,000 USA Hockey registered hockey players in the Rocky Mountain Region. There are six local non-varsity college teams, two junior A teams, five men’s leagues and drop-in players that are not registered through USA Hockey.

The impact the Olympics had on hockey in Utah are multifaceted. NHL Hall of Fame members bought property in Utah and contribute through coaching and influencing the game in some way here. Names like Luc Robitaille, Brad May, Rob Blake, Claude Lemieux, Mike Modano and former NHL/AHL and current DEL coach Kurt Kleinendorst have homes in Utah.

Former NCAA stand-out at North Dakota and NHL player Jordan Parise (who is the son of 17-year NHL vet and one time Salt Lake Golden Eagles coach J.P. Parise) also lives here and is coaching both youth and adult hockey in Park City.

Sure, Utah can name drop a lot of famous hockey players, but what does that mean?

Hockey in Utah is growing every year and at all age groups.

The Olympic Oval hosts an adult rookie league for adults who always wanted to play but never did. It’s always at capacity, or close to it.

The youth travel teams now have people that are invested in making hockey better. Experienced coaches are helping to make these kids better, so the teams will be more competitive.

County youth leagues are almost always full as well.

Two things are holding hockey back in this market. One is the cost. Hockey is expensive. Ice time runs $175 – $200 per hour. Sticks start around $100, and the rest of the gear is more. There are groups that help redistribute used gear to new players or players who can’t afford gear.

The second roadblock is the lack of ice space. As I mentioned, most of the teams and leagues are at capacity and there is no more ice time to be purchased. If more ice sheets are approved in the next round of ZAP taxes, I have no doubt they’ll be at capacity in no time.

It would also help this market if these rumored private rinks would become a reality.

To drop a famous movie quote, “If you build it, they will come.”

Utah Puck Report is a podcast all about Utah hockey, from interviews with NHL stars to which Grizzlies players are about to take the next step, Utah Puck Report has everything for a Utah hockey fan. Find it wherever you find podcasts or on KSLSports.com.

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