(Edmonton, AB) -The Edmonton Oilers newest program, Lil' Oilers completed its inaugural season today at the Downtown Community Arena. Launched in February 2017, the program continues the Oilers long tradition of support for grassroots hockey and has expanded their involvement in youth and amateur hockey in Edmonton. After seven weeks of introductory on-ice sessions, 250 Lil' Oilers participants graduated from this year's program.
Led by Oilers Alumni and certified hockey experts from both Hockey Alberta and Hockey Edmonton, Oilers Alumni Jason Strudwick (Oilers Defenceman, 2008 to 2011) fronted the program as Lead Lil' Oilers Instructor alongside Fernando Pisani (Oilers Forward, 2002 to 2010) and Jeff Deslauriers (Oilers Goaltender, 2008 to 2010).
"Growing the game and introducing kids to hockey has been incredibly rewarding. Over the course of seven weeks, it's been fun to see the 250 Lil' Oilers participants' progression - when we started out, some of the kids were lacing up skates for the first time and now they're moving around with more confidence," said Lil' Oilers Lead Instructor Jason Strudwick. "Lil' Oilers is an exceptional avenue for parents and their children to take in order to learn more about hockey and try something new.
"With this year coming to a close, we're already looking forward to meeting our new Lil' Oilers next season."
Lil' Oilers is a Learn to Play initiative, developed in collaboration with the National Hockey League (NHL) and National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA), that is designed to introduce youth (boys and girls) aged five and six to the great game of hockey.
In addition to seven weeks of complimentary on-ice learning, Lil' Oilers helped break common entry barriers into the minor hockey system by providing all participants with new complimentary hockey equipment courtesy of CCM, outfitting the youth from head to toe in top-of-the-line gear.
The Oilers are proud of its community footprint and have added a lineup of accessible programming to support youth and amateur hockey in Edmonton. This season, Lil' Oilers joined other new and existing hockey programming, including Oilers Hockey Institute (OHI), Oilers Hockey School (OHS) and Oilers Hockey Clinic presented by ATCO.
"The Oilers are proud to continue our legacy of support for youth and amateur hockey. Lil' Oilers has been a huge success by introducing children to hockey in a fun and supportive learning environment," said Oilers Entertainment Group CEO and Vice Chairman Bob Nicholson. "Lil' Oilers is yet another innovative program that we can proudly share with our Oil Country family to support the minor hockey system, but most of all, it's all about making the game fun and accessible for youth."
The success of this year's inaugural program was echoed by Hockey Edmonton, who hope that many of these participants have found a passion in hockey that they'll wish to pursue.
"Hockey Edmonton has been thrilled to support the Edmonton Oilers Lil' Oilers program. Lil' Oilers has been a great opportunity for boys and girls to experience the game of hockey for the last seven weeks," said Hockey Edmonton Executive Director Dean Hengel. "Our volunteer instructors have been having a lot of fun assisting all of the boys and girls in this year's program and we would be privileged to have these Lil' Oilers graduates join one of our minor hockey programs for the 2017-18 season."
Returning next season, Lil' Oilers participants will once again be selected via lottery following the application process. More information regarding the application, eligibility and registration will be released in fall 2017.
For more information, please visit EdmontonOilers.com/youthhockey.