Starting a new sport for a child is always a gamble. Kids find the idea enticing until the actual activity rolls around. Parents find it intimidating to invest all the money required to start a child in a sport only to find out three months later the child is no longer interested. Enter: frustrated parent, crying kid and bruised wallet. When we found out about the NHL Learn to Play program as a means of introducing our son to hockey we were all in. This program was a wonderful and cost effective opportunity to try out the amazing sport of hockey without the huge risk of losing the investment in equipment to a child’s lack of passion or interest in the sport.
Our program in particular took place in Ottawa as part of the Little Sens (Ottawa Senators) as this was the closest available in our region. The program is located throughout the United States and Canada. To find the location closest to you simply click on this link and enter your zip code: https://learntoplay.nhl.com/events.php. There are a few stipulations for participation which are outlined succinctly on the website.
The greatest gift of this program is the low startup cost. Yes, there is some cost involved which goes to paying for ice time and coaches. However, you receive all the equipment necessary to play hockey, from head to toe, for free. The only thing you will need to purchase is perhaps a mouthguard and an athletic supporter. That, my friends, is a deal you cannot beat. I found our registration fee to be very reasonable, if not darn right affordable for the length of the session offered (usually 10 weeks).
Perhaps the most surprising thing about our Ottawa program in particular was the active participation and quality instruction from the coaches. Seeing a bunch of tiny kids in hockey equipment is insanely adorable until you realize all these tiny kids need to be brought on the ice to learn. I was blown away by the organization and efficiency of instruction from start to finish. The coaches somehow corralled all the weeble wobbles on tiny blades and organized them by age bracket and grouped them up by skill level effectively. Each child was presented with multiple opportunities to excel and develop skill sets. I was stunned to see kids doing sled pulls on the ice and skate drills. Impressive to say the least from a program with little monetary investment required.
Learning to play hockey was wonderful but as a mother watching the confidence grow within my child was priceless. He went from timid on the ice to eager to show me how fast he could go and complete a hockey stop. Or how fast he could spin around his hockey stick. He wanted me to sign him up immediately for the hockey season. Taking an interest in a team sport has always been important to me and I was excited he found an activity he felt connected to that could nurture some of the life skills that come for organized sports. I highly encourage anyone who feels that a child may have an inkling to play hockey to check out this amazing opportunity.