Since winning their first Stanley Cup last June, the Los Angeles Kings have had more eyes from the hockey world on them than ever before, including those of the community’s youngest members.
Now the Kings are in the midst of launching a first-time program aimed at getting those young fans involved in ice hockey at an affordable price. ‘Lil’ Kings,’ as the program is affectionately called, is an prime example of how the organization has continued to take its fan development initiatives and the sport of hockey to new and exciting levels.
Lil’ Kings, backed by Kings President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille, is presented by CCM, sponsored by Hockey Monkey and will give 180 local children (4-8 years of age) the chance to learn to play ice hockey and receive free hockey gear from head to ankles. Six participating rinks will host a series of six clinics open to 30 first-time hockey players at the low cost of $125.
“The program will not only provide the instruction needed to start a youth player in the sport, but provide them with free equipment to help make the sport accessible to everyone,” said Chris Crotty, the Kings’ senior manager of fan development.
“This is the first time that a program in Southern California will provide instruction to new youth players and a full set of free equipment for the new players to keep after the program ends,” Crotty added. “This program will be run annually, feed existing local ice hockey programs for years to come and create the need for new youth hockey programs to handle the increased demand.”
The fact that the Kings are already planning on making Lil’ Kings an annual program makes the success of the pilot that much more crucial. And registration numbers are already promising -- after only one week, nearly half the 180 spots have already been filled.
The inaugural program is projected to sell out quickly.
“We hope to grow Lil’ Kings in a grassroots manner,” said James Cefaly, Senior Director of Fan Development and Community Relations for the Kings. “We want each family to have a positive experience and let word of mouth spread. We want the Kings growing popularity in the area to inspire local youth to want to play, and to learn about this program when they watch a game on TV, attend a game at STAPLES Center, or visit our website.
“We also expect to grow this program slowly and manage it so that each participant can get the proper attention and no one gets lost in the numbers. We hope to double the program in year two,” Cefaly declared.
Limiting the Lil’ Kings program to kids between the ages of 4-8 is based on research by USA Hockey, a partner of the Kings, in which it was determined that this is the age when most kids attempt organized sports for the first time.
This research resonates loudly with Robitaille -- who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009 -- because it was at the tender age of four that he began his love affair with the game of hockey.
“At that age it’s so much fun to get on the ice and glide, to have the opportunity to shoot a puck, and I just remember how much I loved it,” said Robitaille. “The freedom of it was absolutely incredible.”
“Every one of us that’s involved in the game, we love the game. It’s something that we wanted to have the opportunity to share with as many kids as possible,” Robitaille expressed.
It is indeed one big hockey cycle, one that can be started by visiting LAKings.com/LilKings. Here is a Kings Vision piece -- http://youtu.be/PV8jR239QCs.