Skating on an ice rink is a thrill Martin Hlinka seeks to share with hundreds-and someday thousands-of Seattle and Pacific Northwest girls and boys at the soon-to-be completed Kraken Training Center.
"We want kids to learn how to skate first, how to move," says Hlinka, youth hockey director at the training center. "You see the joy and smiles when kids realize they can move on their own. They get better every time they are on the ice."
The skating improvement and joyous smiles will unfold starting this fall at the three-rink training center in the Northgate neighborhood. Registration for skating and hockey programs will be opening soon. You can sign up for our newsletter here to be notified of the registration start date and other details and news.
There will be a range of programs offered by the Kraken Youth Hockey Association and Kraken Skating Academy, including an NHL Learn to Play program for girls and boys five to nine years old.
The seven-week NHL Learn to Play program includes a complimentary full set of gear, head to toe, helmet to skates, and a stick. The requirement for the program is kids have to be new to hockey and between 5 and 9 years old. There are also Learn to Play programs for older kids, adults and for kids who have some hockey experience, but may not be ready to join a team quite yet.
The skating association's Learn to Skate program, supervised by figure skating director Chad Goodwin, is the beginners' point for all participants.
"It all starts with Chad and the Learn to Skate program," says Hlinka. "It's our base for learning the skills so when they put on hockey gear for the first time in NHL Learn to Play, the kids already have been successful on skates."
Goodwin and colleagues will teach skating to all kids (adult newbies will have similar opportunities) before youngsters opt for hockey or figure skating tracks.
Note to parents: Two of the most decorated American women's hockey players, Kraken pro scout Cammi Granato, and five-time world champion and four-time Olympian Julie Chu, started in figure skating when mom and dad suggested. Both urged their parents to let them play hockey-and both at a time when there were no local girls hockey programs.
"We understand every kid will come from a different skating background," says Goodwin. "They will be placed at the appropriate skill level and we will determine what skills need to be emphasized. Our goal is every skater becomes confident on the ice."
Early classes will likely include balance work and lean toward slow-motion movement to highlight technique. Day one always includes a lesson in how to fall and protect yourself.
"It's about maneuvering their bodies and staying safe," says Goodwin. "Kids learn how to fall safely and get up by themselves."
The Learn to Skate USA curriculum is endorsed by USA Hockey and US Figure Skating.
For hockey players, once they complete the NHL Learn to Play program, they will advance to continue developing their skills in the "Squid Squad" in-house program. Eight-year-olds and up will be able to compete in 8U, 10U, and 12U Jr. Kraken league play teams. Kids desiring to be figure skaters will join Emerald Edge programs.
The hockey programs will follow NHL's Learn to Play principles and format, plus integrate USA Hockey's "Come Play Youth Hockey" tenets into all classes and team play.
One detail for parents new to the sport and/or who played themselves more than a decade ago: In 2011, USA Hockey approved a rule that bans checking (using the body to disrupt an opponent) until players reach the 14U level.
No matter the skating choice, there will be "no yelling and screaming," says Hlinka, and they'll be "doing it the fun way."
The fun factor is worth repeating for emphasis. Rob Lampman, general manager for the Kraken Training Center says, "We are committed to developing a culture at the Kraken Training Center that reflects our organizational culture as an NHL team. We will build our programs to be inclusive and supportive, with an emphasis on growing the game through best in class coaching and long-term athlete development. Most of all, we always want to make it fun."
Lampman takes it one step further on the mission for the Kraken Training Center.
"We have a responsibility at Kraken Training Center to educate our players and the broader community not only about the game on the ice but the culture of hockey off the ice. The game can offer so much both on and off ice. Through the Kraken we hope to share the many experiences this game can offer to the community at large, youth and adult players, families and fans" says Lampman. "We invite all community members to be part of it, whether they're skaters or fans."