After seeing several Phoenix Coyotes game, my daughters said they liked watching the games but wanted to play. Not knowing how to get them into the game, I came upon the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association http://www.azamateurhockey.org/. And there it was, Arizona Kids First Hockey. Try the game for free for four weeks. On-ice instruction by all world instructors like Larry Gibson. Full equipment including the stick. They were hooked. I say I got my kids into hockey, Larry kept them in it. He is still growing the next generation of hockey players and fans. If you want to learn how to play, seek out a Kids First class (Tanner’s Kids at the Ice Den in Scottsdale).
This led to more lessons in pre-hockey as skating and skills were taught in a fun yet challenging environment. And then we hit the big time. House league. Putting on a jersey and being part of a team is something every child should be part of. A few years later, we are still in house league and enjoying every second of it. We’ve met some players who could and should be in travel hockey. The cost and time commitment are what keeps them from making the leap to the elite leagues. One practice a week, one game a week in house versus five practices a week and one game.
Make no mistake. If your child has talent and they have the desire to commit the time and energy that travel hockey dictates, then you should make the attempt. To be part of an elite level of players that coaches are able to mold into top flight players, that is what talent is about. They have the potential in the skills and mental ability to be pushed hard and to respond. You become stronger mentally than you were. Your teammates become your best friends. And to be a coach at this level to see the players develop and reach heights they never thought possible is one of the best feelings you can have. As a coach, you will have more of a hand in the player’s life development than you can imagine. Whenever they are challenged in high school or college, they can reach back to their Squirt or PeeWee travel days and realize if they got through that, they can survive anything.
Ken Campbell of The Hockey News had this to say in his October 5th column.
“There were observers who were apoplectic to learn that 90 percent of people between the ages of five and 19 do not play the game in Canada. For boys, the number is closer to 85 percent. This is something THN identified two years ago in a cover story on the state of the game in Canada and, as the story pointed out, with birth rates in Canada dropping from 2.1 million in 2006 to a projected number of just 1.79 million in 2016, it might get worse before it gets better. In fact, if Hockey Canada’s 9.5 percent participation rate continues to hold, we could be looking at 30,000 fewer players in Canada in the most important age group.
So what is the answer? It’s playing house league hockey, the haven for what some who would turn their nose up to it is played by the unwashed masses. But if you think about it, while elite AAA leagues and hockey academies are busy producing the next crop of pros, house leagues are producing the next generation of beer league players, people for whom the game remains a passion. Without them, the NHL would probably collapse due to a lack of interest.
For the entire article by Ken Campbell, I’ve attached the link on The Hub. Also on The Hub you will find instructional videos by USA Hockey and private groups such as HowToHockey.com.
At the recent USA Hockey coach certification, one of the instructors said “All roads lead to beer league.” If you have been to a rink on a weekend afternoon or weekday night, you know how true that is. Ken sums it up beautifully.
“And most of all, house league hockey harkens back to a day when the game was just that. It’s not hyper organized and, for the most part, it’s not viewed as a life-and-death situation. The kids who are there want to be there. It’s not a chore for them. They just don’t want to spend their lives at a rink and a gym. And that’s perfectly fine because the more we cultivate real grassroots hockey in this country, the more players we’re going to have playing.