The first glide across the ice with stick in hand can be a nerve-wracking experience for young hockey players. The First Shift program, underway for it’s second year in Salmon Arm makes trying out the game easy, fun and affordable.
“The whole idea is exposure to Hockey,” said Salmon Arm Minor Hockey Administrator Roy Sakaki as he watched the 2017 First Shift program’s third on-ice session on Dec. 16 at the Shaw Centre.
The First Shift program’s head instructor Gregg Patterson said the participants have massively improved their skating skills in just a few short lessons. He said lots of helpers were needed on the ice just to hold some of the kids up in the first session but during the third session most of the young players navigated skating drills with ease.
The 22 participants in the program showed growing confidence on their skates as they learned techniques for accelerating quickly on the ice and perfected their turns by skating through a pattern of cones.
The session ended with a fun game of soccer on ice to allow the rapidly-improving skaters to put what they’ve learned to the test.
Patterson said the upcoming on-ice sessions will feature more puck handling and shooting now that the participants have some good basic skating skills under their belts.
The program is unique because it includes head-to-toe hockey gear which the young players get to keep along with the six on-ice sessions coached by volunteers in the $199 registration fee. it is sponsored by Canadian Tire and hockey equipment provider Bauer.
First-time hockey parent Loretta Dedood said she is impressed with the program as she watched her son Grayson navigate a skating drill. She praised the good student to instructor ratio in the program.
“It’s his favourite thing already,” she said.
Jason Blackstock also praised the instruction his six-year-old son Levi is receiving in the program as well as the program schedule which with only one hour-long practice a week, is easier to fit around his older son’s more demanding PeeWee Tier 2 schedule.
“I like it better than initiation, because there’s fewer kids out there,” Blackstock said.
Liam Devos one of the players giving Hockey a try with the program says he has enjoyed the first three sessions.
“I like hockey. I think it’s fun learning to glide and stuff,” he said.
The most important goal of the first shift program is fun and the smiling faces coming off the ice after the Dec. 16 session, suggest it succeeded.