NEW YORK – The National Hockey League (NHL) and USA Hockey announced today the inaugural Come Play Hockey Month initiative, a nationwide effort designed to increase participation in the sport of ice hockey in the United States. Come Play Hockey Month is a component of the NHL's Hockey is for Everyone™ (HIFE) program, which provides children of all backgrounds the opportunity to play hockey.
The nation's youth hockey community and many U.S.-based NHL clubs, players, alumni and fans will support Come Play Hockey Month with a slate of activities -- including Try Hockey for Free Day™ on Saturday, November 5, on which more than 430 local ice rinks across 47 states are expected to conduct a free one-hour clinic to introduce nearly 10,000 kids to the sport of hockey.
A highlight of the initiative will take place in Newark, NJ, where NHL pioneer and HIFE Ambassador Willie O'Ree will join New Jersey Devils alumni Ken Daneyko and Grant Marshall to introduce the sport to local children. The event will take place at 1:30 p.m. at the AmeriHealth Pavilion and will be hosted by the Devils, in partnership with local youth hockey organization Hockey in Newark—a member of the NHL's HIFE initiative that provides hockey programming for economically disadvantaged children.
O'Ree has served as the NHL's Director of Youth Development since January, 1998. On January 18, 1958, playing for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens, O'Ree became the first black person to play in the NHL -- an extraordinary event that paved the way for future players of diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Try Hockey for Free Day will build upon last year's historic youth hockey season during which, for the first time ever, more than 100,000 children age 8 and under registered to play hockey in the United States -- a 15% increase since 2008. To learn more about Try Hockey for Free Day visit www.tryhockeyforfree.com.
On November 18-20, the NHL, Philadelphia Flyers and USA Hockey also will team up to present the 2011 USA Hockey Sled Classic™, bringing together NHL club-sponsored adult sled hockey teams from across the United States. Over 100 of the top sled hockey players in the country will take part in the second annual tournament. All games will be played at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ, the Flyers' official practice facility. For more information on the 2011 USA Hockey Sled Classic visit www.usahockey.com.
"We are honored to partner with USA Hockey on this very important effort," said Kenneth Martin, Jr., NHL Vice President of Community Affairs. "Come Play Hockey Month is an extraordinary opportunity to show our continuing support for youth hockey and disabled hockey in the United States. We are proud to join this initiative."
"We are excited, through Try Hockey for Free Day, to have the opportunity to give so many boys and girls the chance to experience the joys our sport already provides to hundred of thousands of kids all across America," said Pat Kelleher, assistant executive director of membership development for USA Hockey. "Through the efforts of the NHL and its member clubs, rink owners all across the U.S., our affiliates and local youth associations, and many others, we've built significant momentum in so many areas in helping our sport continue to move forward."