USA Field Hockey NEWS 40 Thankful Years: A...

40 Thankful Years: A Historical Lens on National Hockey Festival

Nov. 05, 2020, 3:30 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – November 5, 2020 - It’s that time again to start reflecting on the year and what everyone is thankful for in their lives. November also marks the celebration of one of the most recognizable field hockey tournaments around in the United States – the National Hockey Festival, presented by CranBarry.

The year 2020 marks the 40th edition of this Thanksgiving weekend tradition in a unique year that will split the traditional tournament to two locations along the East Coast. With just three weeks to go until this historical edition, take a look back at how the National Hockey Festival evolved to what it is today.

Dating back to 1922, the origins of today’s Festival begin with the National Tournament. At that time, the tournament was a three-day event and its main focus was bringing together athletes that were college-aged or older from all regions of the country. This also took place during Thanksgiving weekend, but the winners of the tournament were deemed national champions, while also doubling as the U.S. Women’s National Team Trials.

The emphasis of the National Tournament changed in 1975, when the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) added what served as the first collegiate national tournament. This format reflected is what the modern day post-season play looks like.

Six years after the AIAW’s first national tournament, it was taken over by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). This in turn shifted the National Tournament to begin opening up to local clubs as well as high school teams. That same year, the National Tournament was renamed and rebranded to the current day National Hockey Festival. At that time, the tournament was then considered more of a high school level “jamboree” which allowed high school athletes the opportunity to play in an exhibition setting against similar aged teams and players from around the country. From this point, the jamboree transitioned to age groups to feature U-16 and U-19 classified athletes.

The 1980s continued to quickly change the overall look of the National Hockey Festival over the next few years. In 1982, male athletes saw their first chance to compete when a Mixed division was added. Two years later, the Open division was created and treated as the championship for officially rostered club teams.

A Men’s division was formally added in 1986, and in the following year, a Non-Competitive Recreation Sub-Division was added where open teams, as well as club and masters squads, could play.

2000 - Present
The new millennium still brought plenty of changes as to how the National Hockey Festival now looks. For example, in 2008 a Boys division was included for the first time. Four more divisions were added from 2013-18, including U-14 7v7 (2013), Women’s (2014), U-12 Co-Ed 7v7 (2017) and U-14 11v11 (2018) to help meet the demand of the expanding interest of all age groups.

The National Hockey Festival has had a number of partners over the decades. CranBarry, the current presenting sponsor, has been a recognizable name with the tournament since 2009. Harrow Sports is another household name around Vendor Village as the official licensee of the Festival since 2011. Finally, Goal Sporting Goods was the official goal supplier from 2007-13.

40 years of celebrating the best game on earth! From each team’s colorful jerseys to medal ceremonies and countless memories under the sun. Wherever your 2020 National Hockey Festival takes you, join USA Field Hockey in celebrating this historic milestone!