From coast to coast many of us at the office, online or over the neighbours fence, talk about the former night’s hockey game as commonly as we do the weather. Despite many kids playing our sport, we need to continue to look at ways of growing the game to appeal to young families that are not currently involved, especially now that they have more options for recreational activities than ever before.
Expanding the reach of the game is one of the main focuses of grassroots initiatives. There are many programs that exist to try to alleviate some of the concerns that may exist from those who are new to hockey.
While membership remains stable, there are still large, untapped areas of the population that could hold the next Travis Dermott or Chris Tierney but have never stepped foot on the ice. Hockey is for everyone to enjoy and introducing the sport to families who have never experienced it before is a great way to get new faces in the game.
Programs like The First Shift and Try Hockey from Hockey Canada help bring the sport to those who are worried about financial barriers. They offer drills and skills in both the classroom and in the arena through fun games like ball hockey and floorball. Equipment is kept by the participants of programs, bringing the idea of hockey back home.
Hockey remains a time commitment, running close to eight months of the year. Back and forth trips from home to the rink a few days during the week adds up quickly and coordinating carpools isn’t an easy task. Some associations are beginning to offer programs with lengths that are half or a third of the size of a full hockey calendar, reducing the strain on participants.
It may be a few years until we truly see the impact that these programs are having at the grassroots level. No matter where in the community, players can associate the sport of hockey with having fun.
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