Friday, November 7, 2014

Try Hockey For Free Day

Tomorrow, November 8, 2014 is the fifth annual Try Hockey For Free Day. USA Hockey and nearly 500 local associations across the US are inviting kids ages 4 to 9 to come to a participating rink and try youth hockey. To date, over 70,000 kids have participated in the event.

Storm hockey photo NickStormpractice.jpg

To find a participating rink near you, please visit this link and enter your zip code or go to Many kids will receive goodie bags, jerseys and the free use of equipment as part of the event, but arrive early! In Minnesota, there are 29 locations in the Twin Cities metro area and 70 statewide for you to choose from. Anyone living near an NHL team in the US should have several locations to pick from that are supported by their local franchise.

Youth Hockey Player
Not much thrills a kid more than the fun of being a hockey player!

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 double the size of their little heads! You can usually count on at least three or four times during any practice 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 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 with generally three practices for each game.

Minneapolis Storm Mighty Mites
The Minneapolis Storm Mighty Mites

One unfortunate aspect of ice hockey is the cost. 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.

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.

Goalie hug photo Goaliehug.jpg
Making friendships is part of the experience

After completing a successful run in Mites, your child will hopefully continue to move up the ladder to Squirts, Peewees and Bantams.

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Kids love being part of a team

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!

Family fun photo FamilyFun.jpg
Youth hockey provides a lot of family fun

From there the ladder system continues with High School, Junior and perhaps even college hockey, for both men and women.

Storm hockey photo NickStormgrunge.jpg

Today's featured jersey is a 2013-14 Minneapolis Storm jersey. Last year's Storm jerseys were great looking jerseys, with not only a Montreal Canadiens-like chest band, but an NHL inspired main crest and even a sublimated patch on the left chest commemorating 100 Years of Minneapolis hockey topped off with an Old Time Hockey lace up collar! Pretty sweet jerseys for a squirt team.

Minneapolis Storm 2013-14 jersey photo MinneapolisStorm2013-14Fjersey.jpg
Minneapolis Storm 2013-14 jersey photo MinneapolisStorm2013-14Bjersey.jpg

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.

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