It’s probably safe to say everyone reading this article has a passion for hockey – if not, why would you be spending time reading hockey articles when the regular season is over? The game of hockey is arguably the best sport on the face of the earth and teaches many life lessons which prove to be invaluable to children as they get older. In order for our sport to continue to grow and take strides in a positive direction, each of us must take some responsibility and “step up” to help expand our game. We’re all busy, but if we, as active, current participants in the hockey community do not, who will? If you’re a parent with a child in the game, wouldn’t you want to see your children’s children have the opportunity to play this great sport? If you’re a coach who doesn’t have any children involved in the game, wouldn’t you want to make sure you’re going to have players to coach in the future?
So how can we make our game bigger and better? The first step is easy – become a game ambassador. When the opportunity arises, let people know how much hockey means to you, and share how much it has touched your life. Invite family and friends to hockey games. If you have a son or daughter playing, and their friends get to see them play, you’ve got an instant connection and a much greater chance of getting another child interested in the game.
Another great tool is to encourage your local youth hockey association and rink to host a “Try Hockey Free” clinic. USA Hockey and Hockey Canada have made it increasingly easy to get the necessary equipment for these sessions with their OneGoal program. Organizations can order sets of gear for an extremely affordable price. Associations and rinks need to realize the investment they make in gear is an investment in their future. If your association or rink is unable to purchase the gear, contact families within the club and ask for donations. Many hockey families have old gear just sitting around and would be happy to put it to a good use. Once you have your gear, work together with the rink to make it a memorable experience. Many rinks will gladly donate an hour of ice time for the event – and why not, it’s helping secure their future customer base as well.
Celebrating and partaking in the festivities when national governing bodies organize events is a simple way to celebrate and promote the game. USA Hockey has Hockey Weekend Across America, where there are different themes for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This year, the Friday theme was “Wear Your Favorite Hockey Jersey”, Saturday was “Bring a Friend to the Rink”, and Sunday was “Celebrate Local Hockey Heroes”. These are three great themes to help grow awareness.
Finally, if you’re able to help out with your local club, reach out and lend a hand. So many organizations need volunteers to keep the kids on the ice. Even if it’s just being there for your club’s beginner/development hockey program, no contribution is too small. When you’re dealing with the younger and beginner levels, it’s difficult to have too many knowledgeable people on the ice. Anyone who’s worked with the beginning groups know just how demanding it can be – individual attention is the key. Talk to your organization about adopting a policy to make sure the program isn’t understaffed. Have a board member present at every practice/game to field questions parents may have. It’s easy to forget many times both the player and parents are new to the game and don’t “know the ropes” yet. Have every coach in your club come out for one week of practices – it’s a small commitment that can make a huge difference. Not only does it give more qualified coaching on the ice, but also begins to introduce coaches from other levels to the players and parents.
We would love to hear other ideas on how you or your local association (or rink) help hockey grow. Please leave some comments below to help contribute to the growth of our great game.