For hockey players aged 10 years and under, Pittsburgh leads the country with a 120% growth rate in participation, which can be attributed partially to the emergence of the “Little Penguins Learn to Play Hockey” program over the past five years. In other words, Pittsburgh has accounted for 15% of the growth in youth hockey across the United States. This program’s main function is providing the necessary hockey equipment, free to 1,000 local children on an annual basis, as well as providing on-ice instructional clinics to the children involved which have both aided in this growth.
The 2013-2014 season will be the sixth-consecutive season for the Little Penguins program, which continues to grow in enrollment and popularity. This season, 26 instructional programs will be held at 23 Pittsburgh area rinks, including four girls-only locations.
Since it began in 2008-2009, over 4,200 children ages 4-8 have received free head-to-toe hockey equipment to all registered participants. This season, an additional 1,000 children will learn the game and be equipped properly to do so in this one-of-a-kind opportunity.
“We were both excited and amazed by the reaction to the Little Penguins program in previous seasons, and we’re happy to be able to offer the program again for another year,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “The goal is to continue to create opportunities for more kids in the Pittsburgh area to take up hockey. With the Little Penguins program, they can receive head-to-toe hockey gear and learn the game in a fun and organized way.”
Thanks to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Dicks Sporting Goods, Reebok, the Penguins Foundation and Sidney Crosby - all participants in the program are set to receive full sets of Reebok SC87 equipment, including skates, stick, helmet, gloves, pants, shoulder pads, shin pads, elbow pads, an equipment bag, as well as an official Little Penguins Jersey and helmet stickers. This popular program is beginning to be emulated by other NHL teams to incorporate in their respective cities.
With five extremely successful seasons, the program continues to sell out very quickly. During the pre-registration period, parents may view information regarding the rinks, starting dates, number of sessions and times of instructional sessions which are listed on the Penguins website. For participant convenience, registration will occur online at pittsburghpenguins.com.
“We are extremely excited that we can continue the success of the Little Penguins program for a 5th consecutive year,” Penguins Executive Director of Strategic Planning Rich Hixon said. “One of the goals of this program is to not only get kids to start playing the game but to keep them playing for a lifetime. Currently, our conversion rates are nearly 50% of all participants who continue to play hockey well after this program. To provide children with head-to-toe hockey gear year after year is nothing short of a tribute to the generosity and character of not only Sidney Crosby, but to the efforts of Reebok, Dick’s Sporting Goods and the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation. “
Registration for this year’s Little Penguins Program begins November 5th at 10 a.m.