The Future of Hockey in the Southeast
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06-06-2011, 04:27 PM
Join Date: May 2011
Having grown up in Memphis and lived at times in Nashville and Knoxville. I can say that hockey is, if nothing else, resilient in Tennessee. Growing up, Memphis had only an undersized Mall rink that somehow still managed to support a dedicated youth hockey program and adult league. Small, of course, in comparison to major hockey towns but consistent. Then we got a minor league hockey team in the CHL and that helped boost hockey activity as well as provide a secondary ice surface (youth and adult leagues were able to additionally use the arena for games when the pro team wasn't using it, though only during the season). The youth program grew enough that a local High School league was started on top of the regular youth programs.
Unfortunately, the mall went into decline and eventually shut down in 2003 and was razed. This left the Memphis hockey community without any regular ice. Ice skaters of any type were left with dryland practice until the CHL team's season started and ice time at the arena became available. This of course made it difficult for players to advance their skills and even harder to attract any new blood. Despite this youth hockey, high school hockey, and adult league hockey still are active in Memphis to this day.
Fortunately, a new ice rink is finally being built right across the state line in Mississippi, that will provide the Memphis Metro area with regular ice again. It should give the Memphis youth programs, adult league, and Ole Miss and Univ of Memphis College Club teams a regular place to play once again.
Point of all this is, even though Memphis is not a Northern hockey hotbed, dedicated fans and players have kept it alive even without regular ice and if given a chance: regular ice and resources, it will grow. I think same could happen in any southern town. Give the grassroots a chance and it can grow!
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