Floor hockey is fun to begin with. When Preds Craig Smith and Victor Bartley drop by to play? Even better. And when the Nashville Predators donate the equipment to use over and over again? Hat trick.
That’s exactly what happened on Monday afternoon at the McCabe Community Center in Nashville, as two Preds joined approximately 50 kids from the Sylvan Park Elementary after school program.
Stickhandling and shooting drills were on the agenda, capped off with a friendly scrimmage that featured spirited chants from both sides. One could say that the kids were a tad excited.
“Outstanding,” Smith said of the energy level inside the gymnasium. “It’s nice to have some time to get out here and teach these kids a thing or two about hockey. Just to be around them and give back; hopefully they had some fun and took away a lot from it.”
Bartley, who described himself as being just as rambunctious when he was a kid as many of today’s participants, knows exactly what it was like to have an NHLer show up to hang out and play the game.
“I can remember back in my day when I saw [former Vancouver forward] Trevor Linden come out and play hockey with us,” Bartley said. “It was one of the best times ever. Seeing the kids’ faces makes it all worth coming down here for an hour out of your day, just to play some hockey and show them what it’s all about.”
And it’s not just the players that get something out of the experience. The kids who attend the after school program will be practicing their toe drags on a weekly basis, thanks to the Predators Street Pride program. Every stick, ball and net used during the session was left at the center for future use.
“It is awesome,” Recreation Facility Coordinator Lindsay Magness said of the donation. “We are very limited in supplies, so to be able to bring this into our program is just wonderful.”
If the energy and excitement level is any indication, those kids will be clamoring to bring out the nets more often than not. That’s good for the game, and if spreading the word about hockey is the goal, that was certainly accomplished at McCabe.
“It’s an opportunity for [the kids] to see some of their role models and get to participate in something that they normally may not have been introduced to already,” Magness said. “Adding hockey into their weekly program will be fun for them. It’ll give them something different to participate in when they come.”
And the Preds d-man had one piece of advice for the kids before departing. It’s something that shouldn’t be a problem for anyone after Monday’s showing.
“Just go out there and have fun,” Bartley said. “Don’t worry about all the little things, just go enjoy yourself. That’s what hockey’s all about. If you love it, you’re never going to want to do anything else.”
For more information on how to bring Nashville Predators Street Pride to your school or community center, visit nashvillepredators.com/streetpride.