Over the past three seasons, the Devils' Learn to Play program has introduced over 400 girls to the sport of hockey. In February, the Devils announced they would be hosting an All Girls Learn To Play program, the first of its' kind for the organization. The program had over 30 girls from ages five to nine register over the five weeks leading up to the kick off date of April 7.
Before taking the ice for their first session at the RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House, practice facility of the New Jersey Devils, the girls visited Pure Hockey on March 27 where they were fitted head-to-toe for a brand-new set of CCM gear.
The equipment provided by CCM included an ice hockey helmet with a cage, shoulder pads, elbow pads, hockey gloves, hockey pants, shin guards, skates, a jersey, hockey socks, stick and an equipment bag.
When the girls hit the ice in early April, they were introduced to playing the sport of hockey by Devils alumni Bruce Diver, Colin White and Grant Marshall, and highly decorated player for the Team USA women's squad Shelly Picard, who each helped lead the eight weeks of on-ice sessions.
"It was important to me to be a coach in the All-Girls Learn to Play because playing hockey has given me so much joy throughout my life, and I wanted to be able to help give these girls an awesome introduction to hockey," Picard said about the sessions. "They were a great group of girls who were all smiles all the time, and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to coach them!"
"One of the most important things that we can do as Alumni is give back to our community," Driver talked about why it was important for him to be a part of a program like this. "Having the opportunity to introduce the great sport of hockey to these young girls helps grow the game. We take great pride in providing the opportunity for many children new to the sport, enjoy the experience. I've coached both boys' and girls' hockey for 20 years now and with the continued growth of the girls' game it is an exciting time to be a part of it."
During the eight weeks, the girls learned age appropriate skills such as skating, stick-handling, shooting, passing, and teamwork. But most importantly, they had the opportunity to play a sport they never have before.
"The most important thing that I hope all participants take away from this All-Girls Learn To Play Program is quite simply that hockey is fun," Driver explained.
"What I hope the girls who participated in the program took away from was how much they enjoyed learning a new skill," Marshall said about the experience. "The best part was seeing the smiles on their faces."
Driver echoed Marshall's response when he said, "my favorite part of watching these young girls play hockey was seeing the big smiles on their faces after finishing a drill, succeeding at a new skill, scoring a goal or when just having fun."
To learn more about the NHL, NHLPA, and New Jersey Devils Learn To Play Program, visit newjerseydevils.com/learntoplay. To stay up-to-date on all Devils related news, follow the team on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @NJDevils.