In accord with the National Hockey League’s effort to grow the game of hockey around the world, the Tampa Bay Lightning hosted the second annual Girls Play Hockey event on Wednesday at the St. Pete Times Forum, in which over 100 Girl Scouts received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to skate on the same surface as the pros do and learn the basic fundamentals of the game.
The Lightning again teamed up with the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida, a group that comprises about 24,000 Girl Scouts throughout Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sumter counties, as well as USA Hockey, to implement the initiative, which is designed to promote the sport across diverse audiences.
“A lot of the girls had never tried hockey before, and some of them had never even skated, so it was a great opportunity for them to try something new,” said Susan Barnes, Director of Communications for the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. “A lot of them were really excited to skate on the same surface as the Lightning. I think that alone inspired a lot of them, and overall I think each one of them had a lot of fun.”
Areas of focus in the session included educating girls about various aspects of the game, such as the rules, players, basic skills and proper nutrition, as well as exercise and training techniques common to many athletes in the sport. The program also encouraged the girls to pursue careers in the professional sports industry, affording them the opportunities to become strong leaders in the community and in business as well.
Two-time All-Star Brian Bradley, along with 2004 Lightning Stanley Cup champion Dave Andreychuk, facilitated most of the one-ice instruction throughout the night. The Brandon Hockey Chicks women’s hockey team also attended the event to supplement many of the drills and exercises the pair of Bolts alums led for the girls.
“This is one of our more rewarding community hockey initiatives,” Bradley said. “I think it was a great experience for the girls, and it also allows us as an organization to grow the game throughout Florida and really promote the game to a lot of different groups. I don’t think a lot of other organizations around the league do this, so this is something that is fun for everyone.”
The experience indeed proves to be two-fold for both the Bolts and the Girl Scouts. Just as the attendees received first-hand knowledge of the sport and how to properly play the game in an environment that is both fun and safe, the Lightning received the ability to expand the game across a non-traditional demographic, while at the same time, proudly display the organization’s commitment to youth hockey and community development.
At the end of the night, each individual in attendance received a special Lightning patch, as well as a ticket to attend the November 19 home game against the New Jersey Devils. Perhaps what was most significant, however, were the memories the girls left with, which in many cases, included a newfound interest in hockey.