While Quesnel Thunder U15 team took to the ice against Prince George, inside the arena, the next generation of hockey players were beginning their journey in the sport.
The West Fraser Centre hosted the first day of the First Shift program, giving kids from 6-10 a chance to begin playing hockey.
Kids receive a complete equipment set, and on-ice sessions with local coaches to introduce them to the sport. The program is partially sponsored by the NHL and the NHL Player’s Association.
Isabel Lelièvre was on hand to help fit new hockey players with their new gear. The kids receive everything from shorts to skates and pads.
“Whether it’s the kids who aren’t sure, or the parents who aren’t sure about the time and the money investment, we get rid of all those perceived barriers, and really just make it about an introduction, the interest and the fun of the sport,” she said.
Lelièvre said 80 per cent of kids who joined the First Shift program go onto join minor hockey.
“We’re really trying to spread our love of hockey, the game, and be more inclusive, and that’s what this program is all about,” she said.
The on ice sessions will be led by Andy Knott.
“At this level, it’s all about personal development, Skating drills, a little bit of stick handling, but its more about the fun,” he said. “In my coaching career, I’ve always done everything about fun.”
While some kids participating in the First Shift program could end up playing at the rep league, Lelièvre said the program is a way to break the “all or nothing” mentality in youth hockey.
“This is definitely a middle ground for families to start in,” she said.
“Kids will usually know by the end of this if they want to keep playing for fun, if they want to get really good at it, it’s just a great place to start so that the the kids can tell you what they want to do with hockey in their lives.”
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