Similar to a “Field of Dreams” in baseball, Treadwell Arena’s motto on Saturday was “If you Zamboni it, they will skate,” as more than 50 local kids participated in a Try Hockey For Free clinic.
Hosted by the Juneau Douglas Ice Association, Treadwell Arena, one of 200 rinks nationwide, was the only facility in Alaska participating in the fourth annual “Hockey Weekend Across America.”
“For our youth hockey league we are trying to encourage young kids to pick up the sport,” JDIA board member Michelle Kaelke said. “It gives the kids a chance to get on the ice and try it for free, and then we will contact them this fall and see if they want to join our league.”
The hockey hopeful’s tiny faces peered out from helmets seemingly double their head size.
Brian Thomas said his son Harbor, 5, “likes watching hockey and hitting things with a stick, but this is his first time on skates.”
Madeline Quealey, 10, is on the ice for the second time and brought brother Dillon, 11, along for some family fun.
“My brother likes it so it is fun to play with him,” Quealey said. “I wouldn’t mind being a figure skater, but he wants to play hockey.”
Padded from head to toe and resembling pint-sized collegiate or professional weight lifters, skaters learned to fall down, get up, skate into the boards, cross check each other and to try to put the stick on the puck.
“It gives the kids a chance to try out this sport without necessarily going out to buy all the gear,” Juneau Police Captain and hockey coach Jerry Nankervis said as he adjusted gear on 5-year-old Ahmedeaus Amin-Gage. “And they have a number of coaches and volunteers here to help them for the first time they go out onto the ice.”
Nankervis said he was 12 when he first tried on a pair of skates.
“I fell down all the time,” he said. “That was part of the fun. If you fall down you slide and it doesn’t hurt because you have all the pads on.”
Amin-Gage, with great-grandma Mary Smalley in tow, echoed the sentiment, saying, “I can’t wait to fall down.”
In Juneau, where ice time requires big and little skaters alike to arise at o’dark thirty or skate until the moon lights the pathway from the arena to the “hockey mobile,” getting interest in the sport is key to keeping Treadwell in operation.
“This gives her an opportunity to try another sport that she may carry on the remainder of her life,” Rebecca McCracken said as her 10-year-old daughter Renee Urrutia-Winn skated over to have her hair adjusted under her helmet. “She has been a gymnast since she was 2. This is an incredible opportunity for her to expand her horizons.”
The JDIA will host another Try Hockey For Free Clinic in September.
The annual three-day nationwide event is presented by Reebok, USA Hockey, the National Hockey League and OneGoal to promote the sport of hockey in a safe, fun learning environment.
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