Help! My Child Wants to Play Ice Hockey
Your child watched the movie, The Mighty Ducks, and now they’re gung ho about playing ice hockey. You have never even set foot inside an ice rink, so you’re wondering where to begin. Here are some helpful tips to guide you through the process.
ICE SKATING INSTRUCTION
It’s seems obvious, but some people forget that ice hockey is played on ice – and if you can’t skate, you can’t really play. So, the first step is enrolling your child in a good ice skating program. Don’t be put off if the instructor at your local rink is a figure skater. That’s not unusual at all. Figure skaters understand how to use the edges of the skates and can teach your child the important basics about how to move forward, make turns and, most importantly, how to stop. Typically, a learn to skate program would be about 8 – 12 weeks of weekly instruction. You can usually rent hockey skates from the ice rink at this stage.
HOCKEY INITIATION CLASS
Once your child knows how to do the basic skating moves, it’s time to move onto hockey instruction. In this class they’ll learn the basic hockey equipment, the rules of the game, and will start to get a feel for using their new skating skills in conjunction with the hockey equipment. This class is a must for kids who want to play. Often, the facility will rent out the hockey gear so you won’t have to make a major investment in equipment until you’re sure your child likes it and wants to continue.
BUYING HOCKEY GEAR
A lot of parents who are new to the game of hockey get sold a bill of goods when it comes to purchasing hockey equipment for their child. There is no reason to buy new equipment for a beginner. The only pieces you’ll want to buy new are a helmet, a wooden hockey stick, and a hockey jock. If you buy everything else second-hand, that’s just fine. Used hockey gear is easy to find online through hockey auction sites specializing in selling used hockey gear. These can be a great place to find a real bargain. Rather than going to your local hockey shop and paying hundreds of dollars for brand new equipment, look for used instead. It just makes more sense. Ice Hockey
SIGNING UP FOR A “HOUSE” LEAGUE TEAM
When most kids start out (especially if they are Mites – ages 7 and 8), they will need to start out in a “house” league, also known as a “rec” league. This is the best place for kids to start out and develop their game. All the kids sign up and usually there is some sort of an evaluation session. All the coaches for all the teams are present and they have the chance to take a look at all the kids during this practice session. Then, the teams are selected, making an effort to even out the talent so the teams are balanced.
In most house leagues, everyone plays an equal amount of time. No one is benched for lack of skill. The team will usually have two practices for every one game they play. At most rinks, the younger players have the earliest time slots, so don’t be shocked if your player has a 6:00 AM ice slot on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. You’ll need to be at the rink 30 minutes early to give your child plenty of time to change into their equipment. These early morning sessions give the parents a chance to moan and groan together and, believe it or not, is quite a good bonding experience – especially if there’s coffee involved.
Practices are very important at this level. The kids have more actual time handling the puck and skating in a practice than they do in a game scenario. Games are viewed as a reward for working hard in practice. Encourage your child to take practices seriously and not goof off. This work ethic will carry them through the advanced levels when they’re older.
With house teams, there is one coach (who’s usually a Dad of one of the players on the team), along with one or two assistant coaches. The assistants might be Dads, or they could be older players who want to help out. Also, there’s a team Mom who’s selected. She typically comes up with a snack schedule, as well as delegating any other volunteer jobs that need to be filled. Some rinks require teams to have a volunteer run the timeclock or fill out the score sheet. Most rinks require one parent volunteer to hang out in the penalty box to help the kids open and close the door (as well as to calm any tempers). The best thing you can do for your child is to be open to helping out. It takes a lot of teamwork from the parents to make it all work. If you approach it with a willing attitude, you’re ahead of the game.
The worst thing to see at a youth hockey game is a parent who’s out of control with their emotions. If you take away nothing else from this article, please remember this: It’s just a game. Your kid will most likely not make it to the NHL (and if they do, that’s great too), and (most importantly) if your kids plays this game for many years, you’ll be seeing these same coaches, parents, and players for a very long time. Don’t burn any bridges because you’ll probably end up regretting it.