Big-time Hockey in Small Arenas Leads to Growth of the Sport
October 05, 2019
While there is nothing better than going to an NHL game in a beautiful and enormous arena, it is just as great to see the game in a smaller venue.
Luckily for me, I've now seen two NHL games played at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT. The arena normally houses the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers, but for these two games, it had both the New York Rangers and New York Islanders.
It was an absolute blast on both occasions and I was able to take so much from both games. For starters, a smaller arena is such a great thing for kids looking to get into the sport.
My five-year-old son, Sean, is a perfect example of this. When my parents and I took him to the Rangers-Isles' game last season, it was his first time seeing NHL hockey and because there is not a bad seat in the arena, he felt so close to the players and felt like he was in the game himself.
While my son and I were on our way home after going to our most recent Rangers-Isles game at the arena mentioned above, he started asking me about playing ice hockey or roller hockey one day. This absolutely warmed my heart because I never forced him to say any of those things.
It was the experience of being at the game, seeing two NHL clubs up close, and seeing all the other kids there enjoying themselves that made him want to be a part of the sport. Sure, it was only a preseason game, but it clearly meant a lot more to my son.
What's also great about seeing hockey in a minor league arena is that the arena does such a great job of building a hockey community. In addition to promoting the Sound Tigers, the arena made sure to promote all forms of hockey from beginner's all the way to adult hockey.
My son also took notice of these things. He asked both myself and my dad if we played adult hockey and he also asked me if I played hockey when I was his age.
Again, I did not do anything to make him ask these questions. It was being in an arena that showcased all forms of hockey throughout the event that brought these things out of my son.
Lastly, games like these show that the NHL should do things like this throughout the season. Games like these show that hockey can be played anywhere whether it's in smaller arenas or smaller rinks like they do with Kraft Hockeyville and it would be wise to not make these one-off events.
The NHL may be big time hockey on a big stage, but when you bring it down to local communities, a bigger impact is made in terms of promoting and growing the sport. In the end, that is what it's all about.
In addition to writing for WeLive.Hockey, Patrick Hoffman covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.
He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.
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