(November 10, 2005) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Thursday the return of one of its most popular hockey development programs - the Bell Skills First Challenge. In its sixth year, the event gives Atom-aged minor hockey players (9 and 10 year olds) a chance to develop hockey-related skills including skating, agility, puck control and shooting accuracy.
Participants take part in five Leafs-designed hockey challenges. The top three players and one goaltender from each participating minor hockey team are invited to the Regional Elimination Rounds in Ontario Hockey League rinks across the province. The top 100 players to advance from the regional rounds compete in the finals at Air Canada Centre on February 26, 2006.
"The Leafs are longstanding supporters of grassroots hockey and hockey skill development," said John Lashway, senior vice-president of communications and community development at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. "The Bell Skills First Challenge is a big part of the effort that combines opportunities to learn, have fun and skate in one of the top NHL arenas in North America."
Coaches of Atom-aged level teams can download a Bell Skills First Challenge manual that provides instructional details on preparing players for the challenges and integrating hockey drills into regular practices throughout the season. Player progress in the Leafs five hockey challenges can be tracked online.
Coaches will also receive weekly tips relating to on-and-off-ice drills, nutrition, as well as strength and conditioning exercises. For more information or to download the Bell Skills First Challenge manual visit http://www.bellskillsfirst-secure.com .The deadline to submit player scores to the Leafs is January 31, 2006.
The Bell Skills First Challenge is an initiative of Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Development, which increases the access, opportunity and skill development of youth in hockey throughout Ontario and Canada.