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2011 NHL All-Star Game: Hockey Day in Carolina

2011 NHL All-Star Game: Hockey Day in Carolina

Courtesy of Peter Koutrompis, Raleigh Examiner
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Jan. 28th, 2011

Ice hockey may seem difficult to try for anyone who has never skated before or held a stick in their hands, but all of that will become easier for those in the Triangle-area who are interested in the sport. The 2011 NHL All-Star Game and its related events has arrived in Raleigh, NC. With it comes many opportunities for local fans and visitors to see and be a part of the action themselves.

While NHL Fan Fair will include activities like the Honda NHL SuperSkills Zone and the Bridgestone Shoot Out Challenge in exhibit-style format beginning on Friday, those who truly want to experience the game can be a part of Hockey Day in Carolina which takes place on Saturday.

Try Hockey for Free

As a grassroots initiative operated by the Carolina Amateur Hockey Association in partnership with OneGoal, USA Hockey, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Charlotte Checkers, Try Hockey for Free has been created specifically for children ages 4-9 years old who are interested in trying hockey for the first time. The program will be available at eight locations throughout North Carolina and does not require participants to have a full set of hockey equipment - the minimum that is required includes a helmet, gloves (any kind), a parent/guardian, and skates (rentals are available).

Introducing the sport to the 8-and-under age group is a priority in continuing to grow the game in the United States. According to Dave Fischer, spokesperson for USA Hockey, the growth of the game has for the first time ever surpassed the 100,000 player mark within that age group this year. With such success, the goal of reaching 200 locations across the country in offering this program will be closer to being attained after Hockey Day in Carolina ends.

Triangle-area rinks involved with Hockey Day in Carolina include the Downtown Winterfest Outdoor Rink, the Polar Ice House in Wake Forest, the RecZone, and the Raleigh Ice Plex. In addition to equipment and instruction, USA Hockey jerseys will be provided to the first 40 kids to attend each site. Times of program operation vary throughout the day at each rink location.

Growing the game the American way

As a parallel program component of Hockey Day in Carolina, USA Hockey along with the NHL, will present a youth hockey clinic at the RecZone featuring the American Development Model (ADM), a new philosophy in age-appropriate athlete development. The clinic will illustrate how principles of this nationwide initiative can be implemented for local associations and their coaches and parents to develop young hockey players' skills in skating, passing, shooting and stick handling, in a fun and engaging manner.  Representatives from USA Hockey (Roger Grillo, Jim Johannson, Kevin McClaughlin, Scott Paluch) and the NHL (Brian Burke, Grant Fuhr, Pat LaFontaine, Peter Laviolette, Paul Strand) will present components of the ADM clinic beginning at 1 pm.

According to Fischer, the clinic program will illustrate how this 'out of the box' program in player development can be implemented easily and effectively by local hockey associations in order "to get them in, and keep them in."

Take a shot and be an All-Star too

With all the great hockey activity available for youth in North Carolina being offered this weekend, there is no better time than the present to try the game at an affordable price - free. Locally, it is no coincidence that the popularity of the game has increased yearly since the Carolina Hurricanes achieved the ultimate success in capturing the organization's first Stanley Cup that it brought to Raleigh in 2006. The resultant increase in youth hockey interest and participation has continued to grow steadily and will only be enhanced by this weekend's activities.

Who knows, one day an aspiring player who took his first strides in Raleigh, NC during 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend may be drafted, play in the NHL, and bring the Cup back to the Capital City.

Peter Koutrompris is a former Torontonian who writes for the Raleigh Sports Examiner and works for NC State Campus Recreation.

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