By Kyle Shohara
They may all work in hockey, but that doesn’t mean they’re any good at it.
So, about 30 staffers from the Ducks, Honda Center and The Rinks took part in an Adult Learn to Play Program at The Rinks – Anaheim ICE on Monday afternoon. The Anaheim Ducks Learn to Play Program offers first-time hockey players the chance to get on the rink and experience the great sport of hockey for FREE. Participants receive instruction on the basics of hockey as well as learning how to skate properly.
For many of the staff members, today’s session marked the first time in full hockey gear. One of those participants was on-air talent Kent French.
“I was impressed,” he said. “I looked at Hutchy [Rick Hutchinson, Hockey Director, Anaheim Ice and Westminster Ice], and said, ‘Is this exactly what you put these guys through in an hour?’ They do four sessions of this, too. It really gives individuals a great idea of what it takes to be a hockey player. It was awesome.”
Hutchinson leads the highly successful Learn to Play Program, one that got its roots as a youth-only clinic.
“The growth of Learn to Plays in general, which stem from our Youth Learn to Play, has been increasing for the past six years,” he said. “In the last year and a half when Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry stepped in and said they’ll pay for the gear for kids who continue with this and join a program, that’s unheard of.”
Through that, Hutchinson says, is how the Adult Learn to Play came to be. “The parents are bringing their kids to the Youth Learn to Play and saying, ‘Wow, that looks like fun.’ Parents started asking me about it, so I decided to create the Adult Learn to Play. I sent emails to every Youth Learn to Play participant for their parents, and we had over 100 people on the waiting list in the first few days.”
Hutchinson instructed today’s group on the basics, such as skating drills, stickhandling, puck possession and shooting.
“The staff was great,” he said. “They were out there trying to learn some new things, and our goal was to get them out there and experience what the big guys do on the ice. They work for the team and they see it every day, but to get out there and do it is a totally different thing. We wanted to expose them to the basics. It was outstanding. They were a great group.”
“It just shows the enthusiasm that the Ducks staff has for the sport,” said French, who Hutchinson picked to showcase every drill. “It’s awesome to see them out here so they can get a sense of what these athletes go through on a daily basis. It’s also cool to see what The Rinks staff is doing to grow this game with all the different programs we have.”
Hutchinson let out a laugh when asked to grade French’s on-ice performance. “He’s awful…just terrible,” he said. “Frenchy is awesome. He works hard, and he’s one of those guys who never gives up. He takes one for the team any time you ask him to.”
|“This was a lot of fun and I definitely want to do this again. Who knows, maybe that will eventually turn into a league with co-workers or friends.” |
French says today’s hour-long clinic gave him a newfound appreciation for what the Ducks do on a daily basis. “The fact that they have to go out here and not only do the morning skate and play in that night’s game, but then after the game you see them on the bike. It gives you a sense of what type of physical condition these guys are actually in, and the work they have to put in during the offseason heading into training camp.”
French says the most challenging drill was keep-away. “You had to do a passing drill, then when the whistle was blown, your opponent had to come up and try to take the puck away from you,” he said. “Trying to stay balanced, stay on your skates, control the puck, not fall over and do all of those at the same time was pretty difficult.”
Also on the ice for the first time in full gear was Ducks Marketing Coordinator Ryan Johnson, who signed up for the program as soon as it was announced. “It was a lot of fun and hard work,” he said. “I have great respect and appreciation for all these NHL players, kids, and anyone of all ages that plays hockey.
“From when you first put your skates on and you get out there and your feet start to wobble, to see those guys out there going hard gives you so much respect for how much hard work they put in to get to that level.”
Johnson says he’s definitely considering enrolling in the full Learn to Play Program after today. “This was a lot of fun and I definitely want to do this again. Who knows, maybe that will eventually turn into a league with co-workers or friends.”
The adult program is currently being offered at three Rinks locations: Lakewood ICE, Huntington Beach Inline and Irvine Inline. Sessions fill up fast, so it is encouraged to check the website for the latest updates. For more information, click here.
For more information on the Youth Learn to Play Program, click here.