Hockey is growing in South Dakota! In fact, on January 12, 2023, the very first NHL goal scored by a South Dakotan-born player occurred!
In January, Calgary Flames rookie Walker Duehr of Sioux Falls scored his first NHL goal in a game against the St. Louis Blues.
South Dakota is one of the more northern states and has a decent climate for ice hockey. The state is often overshadowed by its neighbor to the north—North Dakota—when it comes to hockey. However, hockey is definitely on the rise in The Mount Rushmore State.
In this article, I’ll show you what pro hockey teams are in South Dakota and what college and junior teams compete in the state. Plus, you’ll learn about the brand new South Dakotan NCAA D1 hockey team coming to the state in 2023.
Pssssst! Are you curious about hockey teams in other U.S. states? You can learn more by checking out our other posts: What Hockey Team Is in Florida, What Hockey Team Is in Oklahoma, and What Hockey Team Is in Pennsylvania.
Let’s dive in.
Here’s What Hockey Teams Are In South Dakota:
While South Dakota doesn’t have an NHL team, they do have one pro hockey team: The Rapid City Rush of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). Their top college hockey team is Augustana University (NCAA D1 – starting fall 2023). Their top junior team is the Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL – Tier I).
Does South Dakota Have a Hockey Team?
So, what is South Dakota’s top hockey team?
South Dakota has several ice hockey teams. However, they don’t have an NHL team as the state is too small for an NHL market (895,000 people).
The top hockey team in South Dakota is a mid-level professional hockey team: Rapid City Rush of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
The Rush are the affiliated farm team for the Calgary Wranglers of the American Hockey League (AHL) and the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League (NHL).
The top college hockey team in South Dakota is Augustana University (NCAA Men’s D1). Their inaugural season begins fall 2023.
Does South Dakota Have an NHL Team?
So, will you find an NHL hockey team in South Dakota?
The short answer is, no. South Dakota’s population is just under 900,000 people which is too small for an NHL team. They’re the 5th smallest state, only ahead of North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming.
What NHL Team Does South Dakota Root For?
South Dakota doesn’t have its own NHL team. However, The Mount Rushmore State still has a very active NHL fanbase.
The most popular NHL team for South Dakotans are the Minnesota Wild. This is primarily due to the fact that the Wild (in St. Paul, Minnesota) are the closest geographical NHL team to South Dakota, located only 4 hours away from South Dakota’s most populous city, Sioux Falls.
The second favorite team for South Dakotans is the Colorado Avalanche. However, the majority of South Dakotans cheer for the Minnesota Wild.
What Hockey Teams Are in South Dakota?
So, what hockey teams are in South Dakota? The Mount Rushmore State has one professional hockey team and several college and junior teams as listed below:
While South Dakota has one professional hockey team, they, unfortunately, don’t have an NHL team.
South Dakota doesn’t currently have an American Hockey League (AHL) team. The AHL is a high-level professional sports league just one step below the NHL.
South Dakota has one professional ice hockey team in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). This is a mid-level professional sports league just one step below the AHL.
What is the name of the South Dakota ECHL team? Rapid City Rush.
The Rush are the affiliated farm team for the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers and the NHL’s Calgary Flames.
So, where do the Rapid City Rush play? The Rush play their home games at The Monument located at 444 N Mt Rushmore Rd, Rapid City, SD 57701.
D1 College Hockey
While South Dakota doesn’t currently have any varsity college hockey programs, they do have some high-level college hockey on the way. Augustana University recently announced that they’ll be adding on an NCAA Division 1 college hockey team in the fall of 2023. The head coach will be Garret Raboi, the assistant coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
While South Dakota is better known for its college hockey, it has a few junior hockey teams as well. South Dakota’s three junior hockey teams are spread across 3 leagues: The United States Hockey League (Tier I), The North American Hockey League (Tier II) and the United States Hockey League (Tier II and Tier III).
There are a total of 3 junior ice hockey teams in South Dakota:
- Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL – Tier I)
- Aberdeen Wings (NAHL – Tier II)
- Badlands Sabres (NA3HL – Tier III)
Is There High School Hockey in South Dakota?
The leading high school hockey body in South Dakota is the South Dakota Amateur Hockey Association. Within the organization, there are several leagues, including a varsity and junior varsity league.
In the South Dakota varsity league, there are twelve teams:
- Brandon Valley
- Sioux Center
- Sioux Falls 1
- Sioux Falls 2
In the junior varsity league, there are ten teams:
- Brandon Valley
- Sioux Falls 1
- Sioux Falls 2
Is Hockey Popular in South Dakota?
Curious whether or not South Dakota is a big hockey state?
Well, overall, even though South Dakota has a decent climate for ice hockey (since it’s a northern state), it’s a very small state.
In terms of popularity (compared to the rest of the U.S. states), it’s quite average. However, the fact that they have a mid-level pro team in the Rapid City Rush and they’re getting an NCAA D1 college hockey team at Augustana University means hockey is growing in the state.
Are you curious to know more about hockey in other states across the U.S.? Don’t forget to check out our other full guide: Hockey Teams in Every U.S. State: Complete NHL & College List (2023).