After Thrashers left, hockey interest is still going strong

BY: Jens Byberg

Even though the National Hockey League team has left Atlanta, the hockey interest in the metro area is still going strong; the true hockey fans are more loyal to the sport.

When the Thrashers left many thought that the interest for hockey would decrease rapidly. The hockey stores and the ice rinks around the metro Atlanta area are still making business and filling up the time slots.

“I feel that the true hockey fans and my costumers have become more loyal now than when the Thrashers were in town,” said the owner of the hockey store “Sticktime,” Phil Kramb.

Kramb expanded his store last year with a room with synthetic ice, where people can skate and practice their shot technique and just have fun. He has seen an increase in usage of time-slots filled this year in comparison to last year.

“The players who want to become good are having a time on the ice weekly  and the instructors I have working for me are busy,” Kramb said.

The hockey rinks around the metro Atlanta area are still seeing their time-slots for practices and teams for men’s league being filled up as normal.

“Our rink is as busy as usual and I run shooter camps here in Kennesaw and Duluth, which are both very popular among the younger kids,” said an employee at the Ice Forum in Kennesaw and coach for the youth program, Sean Bernhardt.

As far as the ever so popular men’s league, the Ice Forum in Kennesaw has seen a steady interest of signing up for a team and the spring season has added another one into the league. As guys are graduating from the area colleges, they are looking for ways to still be able to play the game; therefore they are seeking teams to play in.

“It all comes down to the loyalty toward the sport: once a hockey player, always a hockey player,” Bernhardt said.

Occupancy of the rink in Kennesaw has been the same as last year. The majority of the teams at the rink are 16 years old or younger but college teams are increasing the usage as well. Kennesaw State University, Georgia Tech and Life University are using the rink for practice and game purposes.

Kennesaw State hockey games on Friday and Saturday’s are very attractive for the students and the true hockey fans around the area. With an average of 1,000 people in the stands every game, Kennesaw State has created a hockey culture that is rare to find at other schools in the South.

Many people in the metro Atlanta area thought that the interest for hockey would die out when the Atlanta Thrashers were sold to Winnipeg. Hockey store owner Kramb and Coach Bernhardt can prove the opposite; ice hockey is still on the map around this area.

People who went to games for a beer and a good time with their friends might have lost the interest but the true hockey fans still love the sport and stay loyal to it.

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