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Teaching for the love of the game

Jason Strudwick and other Oiler Alumni will lead the Lil' Oiler Learn to Play grassroots initiative in February 2017.

by Kelli Gustafson /

Video: COMMUNITY | Lil Oilers Program

It is not the road trips or the wins that Jason Strudwick misses when he reminisces on his career as a defenceman for the Edmonton Oilers (from 2008 to 2011).

"I miss just playing," said the 41-year-old while describing his passion for hockey during the announcement of the Oilers newest community program on Wednesday afternoon - Lil' Oilers. 

As an NHL and NHLPA-driven 'Learn to Play' initiative, Lil' Oilers will introduce youth (boys and girls) aged five to six to the beloved sport of hockey, continuing the Oilers longstanding tradition of supporting grassroots hockey in Oil Country.

Leading the Lil' Oilers, Strudwick is excited to share his passion for the game with the kids who will be participating in this new program.

"My hope is that they just enjoy the game," he said.

The program is designed to provide boys and girls with the opportunity to learn to play, who may have not otherwise had the chance to try out one of Canada's most nationally celebrated sports.

Adding to this unique and special opportunity, participants will not only receive complimentary hockey gear but they will also be provided with the best on-ice experience, with instruction given by Jason Strudwick, as well as fellow Oilers Alumni Fernando Pisani and Jeff Deslauriers.

With two 5-year-olds and a 3-year-old at home, Strudwick described how he has a personal connection to being a part of this Learn to Play initiative.

"They're just starting their journey in hockey," Strudwick said of his children.

"And much like their dad they're excellent skaters, but they lack in the skill department," he quipped.

"So I'm excited to learn from Hockey Edmonton and from Fernando and Jeff how to learn the game and teach the game."

Launching in February 2017, Lil' Oilers will be the first Oilers community program to be hosted at Rogers Place's neighbouring rink - the new Downtown Community Arena. With seven on-ice sessions, participants will receive instruction from Oilers Alumni with certified hockey experts from both Hockey Alberta and Hockey Edmonton.

"The Oilers are proud to continue our legacy of support for youth and amateur hockey. This is going to be a truly fantastic program to introduce children to hockey in a fun and supportive learning environment," said Oilers Entertainment Group CEO and Vice Chairman Bob Nicholson.

As an introductory program to the game, those who qualify to apply must have no previous experience within registered minor hockey and must have a birthdate between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2011.

Upon completing the application, participants will be selected through the Lil' Oilers Learn to Play lottery. Applications open today, Wednesday, October 26, 2016 and will remain open until Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 5:00 PM MST.

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