It's been said age is just a number. When it comes to putting on a pair of skates at Ford Ice Center, that adage couldn't be more accurate.
As the facility's third birthday approaches, hockey programs available for youth and adults have never been more expansive. Demand to play the game continues to rise, undoubtedly thanks in part to the success of the local NHL franchise over the past few seasons, but also to the offerings the Predators have put in place for those who want to experience hockey for themselves.
With ice times often spanning 20 hours a day, seven days a week, opportunities are endless, no matter the participant's date of birth.
The Predators and Ford Ice Center recently hosted Adult Prospect Camp, a week-long event that included on-ice instruction from Preds alums, off-ice stretching and yoga sessions, and even a power skating class led by Olympic Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton.
In fact, yours truly was offered a chance to attend the camp, and alongside NashvillePredators.com's Thomas Willis, joined in the fun for a night and participated in an off-ice stretching session led by Preds Assistant Athletic Trainer D.J. Amadio, then jumped on the ice to improve our shooting skills under the watchful eye of former Preds players J-P Dumont and Jay More.
Needless to say, the experience was enlightening, entertaining and just downright awesome. After all, who better to learn from than the man who makes sure P.K. Subban is loose and limber before every game, or perhaps a six-time, 20-goal scorer offering up tips to improve your shot?
"The biggest thing we want to do is create a unique experience," Ford Ice Center Hockey Manager Zach Jackson said. "To be able to learn how to shoot from J-P Dumont, to get a skating session with Scott Hamilton… there aren't a lot of programs, or really anything you can do that are going to provide those elements at an affordable cost. To be able to offer that to the adult side is pretty unique.
"Our goal for the whole camp, and our goal for our adult hockey programs, in general, are to offer a better and a healthier lifestyle - not necessarily making you the best hockey guy in your beer league, but to give you a framework or foundation to better yourself from an exercise and physical perspective."
Video: Preds Adult Prospect Camp at Ford Ice Center
And while the adults have their fun - not only through Prospect Camp, but also through leagues and practices - the youth of Middle Tennessee and beyond can take advantage of what Ford Ice Center has to offer as well.
Registration remains open for the fall session of the Nashville Predators Amateur Hockey Association, or NPAHA, youth house league, which is designed for male and female players (ages 5-18) of all skill levels. As opposed to the traditional commitment of participating in a hockey league from October through March, the youth house leagues are split up into four sessions - fall, winter, spring and summer - affording players and parents the flexibility to fit into their particular schedule.
Another advantage Jackson cites, is the quality of coaches and mentors the Preds have on staff - individuals who aren't just doing this on the side, but do this as their life's passion. Plus, with the Predators involved, there's always the chance one may meet their favorite player at their next practice.
"It's not like you're just coming to the rink to learn how to play hockey, but you're leaving feeling positive about what you're doing and your kids are getting better at the same time," Jackson said. "I believe in what we're doing. I think our coaching staff does, too, and it's something special for the kids."
Whether it's a 5-year-old or 50-year-old lacing them up for the first time or the next star to come out of Nashville, the vast array of offerings in a twin-rink facility just southeast of the city is something special. The secret has been out for a while now - all that's left to do is get a stick in your hands.
"The Preds give us all the resources to be creative and do innovative things when it comes to programming," Jackson said. "When you have people who care about the kids and the game of hockey, ultimately, it benefits the adults, it benefits the youth and it just makes for a great hockey market and building that hockey town here in Nashville."
To learn more about the programs offered at Ford Ice Center or to register, visit FordIceCenter.com.