Saturday, October 30, 2010
Youth hockey season kicks off around our household today with "training camp" this weekend, as the 4 through 8 year old players in the Minneapolis youth hockey program are evaluated and divided up into their respective Mighty Mite and Mite levels.
There's nothing more fun that watching a swarm of Mighty Mites (boy and girls ages 4 to 8 with no previous experience), as they first get their legs under them wearing helmets which double the size of their little heads! You can usually count on at least three or four times in any practice session that the last child in line waiting to participate in a drill will suddenly have their feet shoot out from under them at some random moment taking out the feet of the child in front of them, who takes down the child in front of them, who takes down the child in front of them, who takes down the child in front of them until they entire line has done a "reverse-domino" tumble from back to front, bottom to top.
The season begins in early November and runs through February and requires two hours each Saturday, an hour of which is the actual practice and the other hour divided between putting all their gear on beforehand and taking it all off in the crowded arena lobby afterwards!
2009-10 Minneapolis Storm Mighty Mites
One unfortunate aspect of ice hockey is the cost. While a seven year old child can participate in soccer or t-ball at the local park's rec center for $30 for a season, plus the $13 for a baseball glove at Target, the fee for the equivalent level of hockey, Mighty Mites, is an eye-popping $250.
The fees are even more staggering when you move up in age groups, with Mites (Under 8 years old) $450, Squirts (U10) $900, Peewees (U12) $1300 and Bantams (U14) at $1400 for a single season, and that's before you own a single piece of equipment!
Fortunately, children outgrow their gear rather quickly and most anything you require can be purchased second hand at a place like Play it Again Sports, who will give you a store credit for most any useable gear you bring in in season.
Special mention must be given to the now annual equipment drive, sponsored by the Minnesota Wild, Let's Play Hockey Magazine and Minnesota Hockey, where drop off boxes are placed in arenas all over the metro area for people to donate their unwanted hockey equipment, in both youth and adult sizes, which is then distributed for free at the home of the Wild, the Xcel Energy Center, in early October. The first season 750 people were able to obtain over 2,000 pieces of gear and we're certain those totals were soundly beaten this year.
There is also a wonderful equipment rental program which provides a gear bag, hockey pants (or "breezers"), shin guards, elbow pads, the shoulder pad/chest protector and gloves for an outstanding $20 a season or $25 with a helmet. Jerseys and socks are provided for each player, leaving you responsible for perhaps the helmet and the skates, which you can easily obtain used as documented above.
Money is also available for scholarship programs to help cover some of the cost of hockey. Don't be afraid to ask questions about financial assistance to get your child out on the ice. It can offer them years of fun, focus, direction and teach them lessons beyond the skills of playing, such as sportsmanship and leadership.
Not much thrills a kid more than the fun of being a hockey player!
After completing a successful run in Mites, your child will hopefully continue to move up the ladder to Squirts, Peewees and Bantams.
Aside from having fun, youth hockey is a way to make friendships, for both kids and parents, as there are always a gallery of other parents with something in common with you, sitting in a cold arena during some of your rare weekend time off from work!
From there the ladder system continues with High School, Junior and perhaps even college hockey, for both men and women.
Today's featured jersey is a 2009-10 Minneapolis Storm jersey. The jerseys are given out in order, so you never know what non-traditional hockey number your child may end up with...
Here are the Minneapolis Storm "Little Chippers" at Mariucci Arena putting on a show between periods at a University of Minnesota game last season. It's always a great thrill for youth teams to put on a show in front of 10,000 people at Mariucci Arena or 18,000 at the Xcel Energy Center at a Wild game.
Here's a look at the fun a season of Mite hockey can offer you and your child.