Checkers Calder Cup Run Shines Light on Growing Sport

CHARLOTTE, NC – The Charlotte Checkers hockey team is days away from the first game of the Calder Cup Finals. The team hopes to win the championship for the first time in the organization’s history. Meanwhile, interest in a growing sport continues to increase.

“We’ve got to be ready to go and stick to what we’ve done all year,” said Checkers player Andrew Poturalski.

The young team is making a historic run. They ended the third round in dramatic fashion with a double-overtime win over Toronto. The Checkers play Chicago in the finals starting Saturday.

Fans have caught on to the team’s success.

“Fans have come a lot more this year than in the past and they build as the years gone on because we started to win more,” said Checkers Coach Mike Vellucci.

Hockey, in general, is gaining in popularity over the last decade. According to USA Hockey, youth participation has steadily increased since 2012. More than 382,000 kids participated in the sanctioned sport in 2018.

“It’s definitely nice seeing the sport grow,” said Jared Gaudet.

He’s the Developmental Hockey Manager at the Pineville Ice House. He says they have about 200 families taking part in a range of skating and hockey programs.

“I get a lot of phone calls from people saying, we’re relocating, you know, what do you guys provide for hockey players, for figure skaters,” said Gaudet.

He says the sport is fast and exciting. Many kids get hooked once they’re involved.

“They see something like that on tv and they get excited about it. they get passionate about it,” said Gaudet.

According to the USA Hockey report, the Southeast is seeing the most rapid growth. Hockey participation in the last decade has increased 39%.

“Definitely nice seeing the culture start changing a little bit down here in the south,” said Gaudet.

“People are definitely learning who we are and knowing and getting to know hockey,” said Poturalski.

The Checkers finals run may impact graduation ceremonies scheduled for June 13th at Bojangles Coliseum.

CMS is making plans to move commencements for South Meck, Olympic and West Meck to the Spectrum Center.

The District will make a decision by June 8th.