Blackhawks’ Learn to Play Program an Easy Way for Kids to Try Hockey

Registration starts soon for Little Blackhawks program

By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI

For any tri-state kid aged 5 to 9 that has ever wanted to try hockey, there’s a forthcoming opportunity almost too good to pass up.

The Chicago Blackhawks, in a joint effort with the National Hockey League (NHL) and the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA), are offering a Learn to Play initiative.

The second annual Little Blackhawks Learn to Play program will be an eight- to 10-week course starting in March. It will give kids a shot at trying the sport for a reasonable price.

“The purpose behind it is to grow the game without the financial burden for families who just want to try the sport but may not want to be fully vested in it,” said Annie Camins, Blackhawks Senior Director, Fan Development/Youth Hockey.

There will be 26 rinks throughout Illinois, including the Blackhawks’ new practice facility, MB Ice Arena, as well as Wisconsin and Indiana that will be participating in the program. Each individual rink will decide the length of the course, although eight weeks is the minimum number. Also, each rink will set the cost for each player. Camins said the price will range from $85 to $195. If cost is an issue for any families, they should contact Laura Jordan with the Blackhawks at ljordan@chicagoblackhawks.com.

The cost will cover ice time, age-appropriate instruction from USA Hockey-certified coaches and free hockey equipment from head to toe. Each player will receive a Blackhawks Learn to Play jersey, shoulder pads, gloves, elbow pads, helmet, shin guards, pants, skates, socks, stick and an equipment bag.

“A 5-year-old that may just want to try the sport, the parents are only paying between $85 to $195 in all for an eight week session and they’re getting a full set of gear,” Camins said. “It’s not a commitment they need to make after eight weeks if they don’t like it.”

The parameters for a participant are they must be between the ages of 5 and 9 and be brand new to the sport. Players can’t already be registered with a program or team.

“We actually prefer that they’ve tried a Learn to Skate class where they can at least have balance and know how to skate on the ice, but they don’t necessarily need anything else other than that,” Camins said.

There will be a 5-to-1 player-to-coach ratio, so the kids will get plenty of instruction in small groups. The Learn to Play program follows USA Hockey’s American Development Model (ADM) teaching method, which features plenty of small area games and stations that keep the players constantly moving and involved. Three Blackhawks alumni — Ben Eager, Jamal Mayers and Daniel Carcillo — will be visiting the rinks, skating with the kids and signing autographs.

Last year, 1,200 kids took part in the Learn to Play program. Camins is anticipating around 1,500 skaters this year. The maximum sign up is 50 players per rink, but if a rink wants to open up a few more spots for kids, they have the freedom to do that, noted Camins.

Registration filled up quickly last year, so parents are asked to sign their kids up immediately. The sign-up period will be the week of Dec. 11, with the specific date not yet announced. The best thing for parents to do, according to Camins, is to visit the registration page set up by the Blackhawks. On the page is a tab stating, “Sign up to stay in touch.”

Once a player is registered and confirmed, more information will be sent out on when and where a fitting event will be held to get fitted for and to pick up gear. That should be in February, noted Camins. The program will kick off the following month.

For any parents who may be on the fence about signing up their child, Camins has a little advice.

“I have a 5-year-old at home and every day she wants to try a new sport, so it gets really frustrating,” Camins said. “You sign her up for gymnastics class and it’s costing you an arm and a leg, then she wants to quit. In my experience, I liked [the Learn to Skate program] because my commitment was less than $195, and maybe she still wants to play and maybe she doesn’t.

“The biggest benefit is the cost, to know you’re getting a full set of Blackhawks-branded gear, getting alumni presence at the rinks, getting Blackhawks giveaways and stuff in your bag. Just an opportunity to try the sport for $10-$19 per session and a free set of gear. I think it’s kind of a no-brainer if your child wanted to try hockey.” ​​​​

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.



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