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Sticks For Kids Will Introduce Hockey To Kids For Free

Sticks For Kids will allow kids ages 5-15 to play hockey for free on May 20, May 21 and June 3

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

As the NHL's Vice President of Learn To Play and Growth Fund Initiatives, Rob Knesaurek hasn't made too many trips to Vegas over the years.

Sure, as one of the NHL's leaders in developing the game at the youth hockey level, he's familiar with the Vegas area and its hockey community.

But in terms of coming to Vegas, it hasn't been a frequent stop on his travel itinerary.

That is until the process leading up to and after the birth of the Golden Knights, which has dictated that Knesarek become much more intimately familiar with the region.

On a recent trip to Vegas, he admitted being pleasantly surprised by what he saw.

"When we actually visited the market, there is an appetite for hockey," Knesaurek said. "We went to the available rinks and saw a tournament. I think we saw that there's going to be a contagious energy for hockey.

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"We look at the area as having so much potential."

That potential, of course, may take an entire generation to fully realize.

Although the efforts, some of which will pay immediate dividends while others will take years to quantify, have already started in the months following the Golden Knights' entry into the NHL last June.

The next step in these efforts begin this Saturday, when the first of the team's three "Sticks For Kids" events is held at Paradise Park.

Sign up for Sticks For Kids HERE

 The Golden Knights' "Sticks For Kids" events will be a series of FREE clinics where kids ages 5-15 will have the opportunity to try street hockey for free and learn the game's fundamentals.

This will be in addition to receiving a free hockey stick and street hockey ball that they can keep.

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The Golden Knights, with the assistance of the NHL, will also be hosting "Sticks For Kids" events this Sunday at Desert Breeze Park and Saturday, June 3 at Anthem Hills Park.

Please just note that this will be street hockey, on foot, rather than ice hockey in full equipment.

 

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"Where we've gone wrong in the past is we always thought that hockey had to be defined by full equipment, on the ice, that this is how you gauge fans," Knesaurek said. "What we've since learned is that we need to appreciate and respect all forms of hockey. There are some kids and participants that regardless of where they navigate or where they play, they can be fans.

"When you look at Vegas, it's a nontraditional market and we have to think differently.

"We want to engage kids by teaching them some competencies, teaching them some life skills, as well as hockey.

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"I'm sure by the end of the hour, they're going to feel comfortable shooting the ball, stickhandling the ball and actually feel when we put them in some sort of a game situation, they actually feel like they have some competencies that they didn't know they had.

"We also believe that there are a lot of competencies in hockey that we don't relay enough to parents and to participants. I.e. resilience, teamwork, leadership. Certainly it's high energy. It's teaching them some of the tricks of the trade of playing hockey, of playing ball hockey correctly. It's everything that's kind of fun about enjoyment and developing."

 

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While this will be one of the first - of many - youth hockey development programs that the NHL will directly be participating in, it's not the Golden Knights' first endeavor of this kind.

In March, the team hosted a "Spring Break Street Hockey Tour,"after having earlier participated with USA Hockey and "Try Hockey For Free"in February.

"I think our job with these programs is to provide some guidance and assistance, best practices from other clubs," Knesaurek said. "Our role really is to support the clubs, any kind of youth initiatives and broader initiatives that clubs can take advantage of.

"We're here to make them successful."

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