Based on the weather, we probably don’t need to remind you that it's summertime out there. But a recent Saturday morning stroll around a Cape Cod town revealed multiple driveways or backyards with hockey nets in them. Even in the summer, hockey is alive and well in one of the greatest hockey states in the country. And while many states love their hockey, we know Massachusetts is right up there as one of the best. So what makes us so great? Here’s a list of 10 reasons – just to get us started.
1. Rinks in abundance!
We have rinks in quality (more on that in a minute) and in quantity. According to arenamaps.com, Massachusetts boasts more than 150 rinks, trailing only Minnesota and New York -- both of which are juuuust a bit larger than the Bay State (Minnesota checks in at more than 86,000 square miles and New York checks in with more than 54,000 square miles, while Massachusetts ranks 44th in the country with just over 10,000 square miles).
2. Quality ice
From Pittsfield, which has hosted state high school championship title games, to the Cape, which has hosted college conference championship tournaments, and from Newburyport and Haverhill down to Fall River and New Bedford, and the dozens of rinks around Boston and in the suburbs, so many nooks and crannies of hockey goodness across this great state will give parents and players (and their tag-along siblings) a lifetime of memories.
3. College hockey
There's the Beanpot, with its history dating back to 1952. There are the NCAA Division I national titles -- five each for Boston College and Boston University, plus another for Harvard. And there are Hobey Baker Award winners o' plenty: four from Harvard and three each from BC and BU. The three most recent winners have played at Boston-area schools, and two are Massachusetts natives. A total of five Hobey Baker winners, including the last two in Jack Eichel and Jimmy Vesey, are Massachusetts natives, trailing only Minnesota's nine.
Harvard also boasts six Patty Kazmaier Award winners, with two more playing their college hockey at Northeastern and another at Boston College -- that being Alex Carpenter at the end of this past season.
4. Girls'/Women's hockey
It wasn't so long ago that girls' hockey didn't really exist. If you played hockey, it was with the boys. And while there are thousands of brilliant outcomes from those relatively dark days in terms of options, there were also experiences that may have deprived the sport from catching on with girls who wanted to play team sports.
How times have changed, particularly in Massachusetts, where 10,527 girls and women were registered players with USA Hockey in 2015-16. Only Minnesota has more with 13,354. In other words, of the 73,076 USA Hockey registered girls and women in the country, Massachusetts can claim nearly 15%.
5. Olympic tradition
There are Massachusetts fingerprints all over the golden eras of Team USA Olympic history. At Squaw Valley, six members of the original miracle on ice team, including Bill Cleary and Bob Cleary, were born in Massachusetts, as was their coach, the legendary Jack Riley.
The 1980 Miracle on Ice? It's well-known that four members of that team were from Massachusetts, highlighted by captain Mike Eruzione and goaltender Jim Craig.
Team USA hasn't won gold since, but the sons of the Miracle on Ice helped usher in another era of success in this country's hockey history. And in 1996, at the World Cup of Hockey, Mass natives Tony Amonte, Jim Carey, Bill Guerin, Shawn McEachern, Keith Tkachuk and Scott Young helped give Team USA another milestone international win.
On the women's side, Team USA Olympic women's hockey history includes just over 100 women's Olympic hockey roster spots, with 20 of them (including six repeat Olympians) being filled by players from Massachusetts. That's the most of any state in the country. The coach of those early teams, Mass native Ben Smith, was also recently inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame.
6. NHL tradition
Well, let's start with the all-time scoring list for U.S.-born players. Two of the top five (Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk) are from Massachusetts. Tony Amonte and Bill Guerin are in the top 20. Young, Bobby Carpenter and Kevin Stevens are in the top 30.
The next wave is coming, too. Eichel finished second in NHL rookie scoring. Noah Hanifin played 79 games as a rookie defenseman in Carolina. There's also Keith Yandle, Chris Kreider and Charlie Coyle.
Dating back a bit, Rod Langway won two Norris Trophies and Tom Barrasso, in addition to winning the Calder and Vezina Trophy a year after playing high school hockey, also went on to win two Stanley Cups.
7. The Bruins
It takes a special tradition for teams to become so culturally tied to its fans. Let's count ourselves lucky. Bruins teams that mean the most to the region bring with them a heavy game and depth of character. Bruins fans would probably like nothing more than a roster full of Cam Neelys. And there are plenty of names that have helped keep the Bruins on the front burner of our sports landscape, too: Eddie Shore, Bobby Orr and the Big Bad Bruins, Ray Bourque and the teams of the 1990s and Joe Thornton through the most recent Cup winners in Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask.
Only six teams in the NHL can be an Original Six team, and only one, the Bruins, can be the oldest in the United States.
8. This moment...
More than 3.5 million views can't be wrong. In December 2013, big Charlie Coyle, the gregarious Weymouth native and a self-professed proud Mass Hockey player, made a 5-year-old fan's day as a member of the Minnesota Wild. Coyle's warmup wave went viral, and it remains to this day the most watched of any of the NHL's videos on YouTube.
9. This guy...
Before he even turns 20, Jack Eichel, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft, has put himself in the discussion as the next great player to come out of Massachusetts. The 6-foot-2 Chelmsford native who won the Hobey Baker as a freshman and went on to score 24 goals in Buffalo, can do just about anything on the ice. In this clip, he covers a good deal of it, stealing a puck and shelfing a shot for a goal.
10. Volunteers and local programs
We'd be here all month trying to thank just the people who influenced the average player in the Mass Hockey system. There are the de facto family members who become family on road trips, in the stands and in hotel rooms at tournament time. There are the volunteer coaches who take the time to teach our kids to play hockey in a way that we can hope makes them better both on and off the ice. And there is the organization of Mass Hockey.
Mass Hockey is blessed with visionary leadership, thousands of dedicated and passionate volunteers, and the kind of dedication that leads to a program headed in the right direction.
11. Honorable mention: High school programs. Massachusetts is rich with hockey traditions that stem from youth players wanting to grow up and play for their high school team or nearby powerhouse. Do yourself a favor and take in a game this coming season where you have no rooting interest. Just watch the game, and root for the game, rather than being understandably caught up in the names on both the front and the back of the jersey.
12. Honorable mention: Hockey shops! Pro shops are integral to the success of local programs, and Massachusetts has too many to count. Walk into the average pro shop, and you know you'll find a fun and passionate fan or two willing to have a conversation about the great game of hockey.
Have another reason that Massachusetts Hockey is so great? Tweet to @Mass_Hockey and tell us what we missed using hashtag #MassHockeyProud