Youth hockey continues to grow in Kansas City

Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 10:25 PM CDT
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SHAWNEE, Kan. (KCTV) - The National Hockey League makes a pit stop in Kansas City on Saturday. The St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars will square off in a preseason game at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence.

The game is expected to sell out before puck drop, as it has for the last several years.

The game of hockey is growing in Kansas City, and those at the youth level say professional hockey in Kansas City plays a big part in growing the game in KC.

“Right now, the youth game is exploding,” said Dean Nelson, the Hockey Director of the Kansas City Stars.

More than 1,000 kids play youth hockey in Kansas City. A few years ago, the number was much lower, but things are starting to change.

“Kansas, it’s not Minnesota,” said Dan Carier, the president of the Kansas City Youth Hockey Association. “We don’t have as many hockey players as are up in other parts of the country, but we are absolutely working to grow that.”

At KC Ice Center, the U8 program alone has more than 100 kids. There are 13 teams. The program has nearly doubled in size in the last five years.

“Hockey is not the norm,” said Nelson. “We are about the sixth sport here.”

“It’s absolutely where we put all of our development energy is bringing in new kids,” said Carier.

On Saturday, the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars will face off in a preseason game in Independence. Local hockey leaders say games like that are key to the sports’ growth in KC.

“They really, really enjoy the games. They are fast paced, they’re exciting, and there is nothing like live hockey, especially at a high level,” Nelson said.

“Since the Mavericks started up with the ECHL team, we’ve continued seeing our numbers grow at the youth levels,” said Carier. “It has absolutely grown the game here in Kansas City.”