Participation in youth hockey is reaching historic proportions in the United States -- last season, for the first time ever, more than 100,000 children age 8 and under registered to play hockey, a 15 percent increase from 2008.
This Saturday, 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 on Try Hockey For Free Day, part of a slate of activities scheduled for Come Play Hockey Month.
"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."
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.
"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 hundreds 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."
A highlight of the initiative will take place in Newark, NJ, where NHL pioneer and Hockey Is For Everyone 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.
To learn more about Try Hockey for Free Day, visit www.tryhockeyforfree.com.