Hockey fans and players remember the first time they fell in love with the game, and often it starts with just picking up a hockey stick.
On Saturday, a few hundred kids had their first hockey experiences, and started to develop a love for the sport, at the Vegas Golden Knights' first Sticks for Kids street hockey clinic at Paradise Park.
More than 500 kids came out to learn the fundamentals of hockey, many of whom were playing the game for the first time. More than 800 more local children are signed up for the next clinic tomorrow, May 21st, at Desert Breeze Park. The third Sticks for Kids clinic will be held on Saturday, June 3rd at Anthem Hills Park.
Parents can sign their kids up for FREE for the second and third clinics here
Golden Knights director of hockey operations Misha Donskov was thrilled to see so many kids get their first crack at playing hockey.
"To anybody that's a passionate hockey person, to see a young boy or girl with a hockey stick in their hand for the first time is special," Donskov said. "It was the first time for a lot of these boys and girls today. It was a great day, it was a lot of fun, and it was a great day to be a Vegas Golden Knight."
Kids ages 5 to 15 got the chance to learn the basics of the sport from qualified instructors from Vegas and from the NHL. Each participant received a free hockey stick and ball so they can continue to develop their skills and a love for hockey. Drills included passing, shooting and stickhandling, all skills that can be translated onto the ice.
The NHL's Vice President of Learn to Play and Growth Initiatives, Rob Knesaurek, said that teaching kids how to play hockey on asphalt can develop into a love of all forms of hockey.
"We believe that hockey doesn't always have to be the traditional skates, head-to-toe hockey equipment and a cold rink," he said. "We recognize all forms of hockey. We can build fans from people playing ball hockey that might never get to the ice. This type of stuff, for me, is the ability to cast a wider net, get more kids without any limitations."
While the Las Vegas Valley develops more ice surfaces, including the new Golden Knights facility in Summerlin, in the coming years, these clinics are key in getting kids to step on the ice.
"This is the first step," Donskov said. "A lot of these boys and girls had a hockey stick in their hands for the first time today, and hopefully they've developed a love for this, and they can continue to play hockey and be involved in these types of clinics. The next step for them is to try and get out on the ice."