From the time the sun peaked above the sandy dunes of Cape Cod until it set over the shores of Hawaii, more than 6,000 kids laced up a pair of skates, grabbed a stick and gave hockey a try.
Some showed up with family and friends. Others arrived at the rink kicking and screaming and left with smiles on their faces. From Massachusetts to Nashville to Omaha, Neb., to Southern California, the day was a success. In all, 182 rinks in 48 states across the nation hosted Try Hockey for Free events, introducing 6,064 young kids to the game as part of Hockey Weekend Across America.
Here are four examples of how the day went.
Girls Day Out (Nashville Youth Hockey League)
Walking into the Centennial Sportsplex on Feb. 19, young girls were confronted with a fork in the road. The first rink they passed was hosting a figure skating competition, where young ladies were decked out in frilly dresses with their hair pulled back and makeup on their faces.
In the back rink, the Nashville Youth Hockey League was hosting a Try Hockey For Free event for girls.
More than 40 girls chose the road less traveled and suited up for several hours of hockey fun.
"Our motto is that if a girl wants to play hockey with us, we'll figure it out," said Barbara Fay, who organized the event in conjunction with the Nashville Predators and rink personnel to create a fun-filled session.
In a town where hockey is taking off, opportunities for girls are still lacking. Fay and her husband Steve along with a number of great volunteers are looking to change that by creating more opportunities like this one.
"Some girls don't like soccer, and they don't like lacrosse," said Fay, who has been involved with the NYHL for six years. "Hockey gives these girls a sense of empowerment and a sport they can call their own."
A full version of this story appears in the April/May issue of USA Hockey Magazine