This winter, three local leagues are participating in a pilot helmed by Hockey Edmonton to get youth outside playing hockey.

Steve Hogle, the general manager of Hockey Edmonton, talked to the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues last season along with Dale Clarke, a volunteer who used to lead hockey in northeast Edmonton.

“We had a virtual roundtable of league leaders,” says Hogle. “That led to two meetings at Eastwood Community League. The first one was an informal meeting where we talked about the concept and the second one a more formal round table with more people from Eastwood as well as some people from some other communities.” 

So far, Eastwood Community League, Spruce Avenue Community League, and Delton Community League are participating. 

The pilot, which will begin after the ice freezes at the outdoor rinks, will recruit local youth from elementary school to junior high in playing hockey at the leagues’ outdoor rinks. High school students are also welcome to join.

“A lot of kids can’t get to the rink,” says Hogle. “It’s a great way to get kids there. We want to reach out to people who’ve never tried hockey before. There’s no borders. Anyone who wants to play can play. Because of smaller numbers, we might have a greater range of players.”

Organizers are in contact with local schools to assess which youth would want to participate. 

The pilot will teach youth the skills needed to play hockey, such as skating and puck handling, and also hold games once a week. The practices and games will be held after school, and organizers will provide snacks beforehand. Equipment will be provided.

“We want to make it easy for kids to walk to the rink,” says Hogle. 

He also sees the pilot as a way to build community. “We want it to be one family there on the ice.”

Laura Cassady, the sports director at Delton Community League, says, “I think the pilot is a great opportunity to tie in with other leagues.” Cassady adds, “We’re very proud of our rink. People from all over the city come to use it.”

Farid Foroud, league president, adds, “I think socioeconomic status prevents families from participating in something like this. Communities like ours are where some of these kids are.”

Hockey can be a costly sport, with the price of equipment, fees, and travelling to different locations for games. For many families, playing hockey isn’t financially feasible.

“Having a true community-based program that is about the kids and not the profit would be great,” says Foroud.

Cassady says, “It’ll be good for kids to be outside. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. Local means less travelling. It’s good for the parents, too.”

And with the ongoing pandemic, holding the games and practices outdoors will make it more likely that they’ll continue.

Foroud says some newcomers in the area may not have had much of a chance to play hockey. The fact that it’s affordable and easy to access will have families more inclined to try it.

Hogle is hopeful the pilot is successful and takes off across the city. 

“Kids don’t get to play the game for a variety of reasons.”

Organizers are currently looking for partners to help with the cost. “We’re looking to have minimal costs, if any at all. We want to knock down these hurdles that would prevent kids from participating.”

The pilot will be a program where kids sign up to participate. 

For more information, contact Donna Yateman at [email protected]