As a part of “Come Play Hockey Month” instituted by USA Hockey and the National Hockey League, the Columbus Blue Jackets held their own local session of “Try Hockey For Free Day” on November 3 in the OhioHealth Ice Haus.
The Blue Jackets have done this for the past few years and have averaged approximately 80 kids during each session. The clinic was open to hockey beginners between the ages of 6-12, and all in attendance received a Blue Jackets street hockey stick, t-shirt, and certificate of completion.
USA Hockey and the NHL have underlined the importance of spreading the game, but most importantly, involving the individual communities that are responsible for grassroots growth.
One of the many highlights of the afternoon was seeing young players getting on the ice for the first time, and being able to skate on the same ice as their favorite team.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards and assistant coach Dan Hinote were in attendance, lending their hockey expertise to the young players.
“It’s great when you see a turnout like this of young kids,” Richards said. “Growing up in Minnesota, ice was always accessible to me. It’s nice that you can see these young kids come out and learn how to skate and push the puck around.”
The result is that USA Hockey and the NHL can attempt to grow the game by making hockey accessible to kids of all age groups (and for free) in a casual environment.
Success or failure isn’t the objective, Hinote said. This is the ideal setting in which a lifelong passion for hockey is born – skates, a stick, a puck, and some ice.
“It’s important to get a feel for it; lose your balance, fall and hit your knee,” Hinote said. “It’s important to get them out here and have some fun so they enjoy coming back again and again to play some hockey.”