The Nashville Predators’ Hockey With Heroes youth clinics took a detour in late February, leaving the ice for the traction of the indoor courts of A-Game Sportsplex in Franklin, Tenn.
“This was our first Hockey With Heroes street edition clinic,” said Mike Dargin, Predators youth hockey and fan development coordinator, following the Feb. 22 event. “We partnered up with A-Game, we had [Predators players] Jack Hillen
and Gabriel Bourque
come out and help us out.
“They put the kids through their paces. They did some stick-handling drills, warm-up drills. We did some breakaways on the goalies and we got into some scrimmages at the end. So the players were out there interacting with the kids, just showing them how to hold the stick correctly, how to take some shots and how to have fun with the game of hockey.”
For a market like Nashville where ice rinks are far from commonplace, introducing youngsters to hockey on solid ground can be very beneficial.
“A lot of the frustrations of playing hockey come from just learning how to skate,” defenseman Hillen said, “but this teaches you other aspects of the game where you don’t always have to necessarily worry about falling down so much.”
But even in Canadian locales where ice hockey is the standard, street hockey serves as a fun break in the warmer months.
“We played a lot in the summer right in front of my house,” said left winger Bourque, who hails from Canada’s Quebec province.
“It’s how a lot of players started, just out in the driveway having fun,” Dargin said. “So it’s great to see them pass that off to younger generations.”
The clinic’s participants, aged 7-12, were grouped into two teams—one coached by Hillen and the other by Bourque. After drills and a scrimmage, the two Predators answered questions and signed autographs for the attendees.
While all previous Hockey With Heroes clinics had been conducted on ice surfaces, Dargin sees promise in the new “street edition” format.
“It just shows that all you really need to be out there is a pair of sneakers,” he said, “because we provide all the equipment, the sticks, the goalie gear, the nets. It’s an easy way to get into the sport of hockey.”