Ducks’ ‘Learn to Play’ program hits milestone with 10,000 participants
When Anaheim Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli bought the Anaheim Ducks back in 2005, not only did they want to bring a Stanley Cup to Anaheim, they also wanted to establish the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim as a staple in the Orange County community.
Thirteen years later, the Ducks have a Stanley Cup victory, and hockey has significantly grown throughout Orange County and Southern California.
When the Ducks became the first California-based team to win the Stanley Cup in 2007, hockey participation was still low in Southern California. According to USA Hockey, the state of California only had 2,917 registered youth hockey players under the age of 10.
Now, compare that number to the latest report in 2016-17, which saw California’s youth hockey numbers grow to 5,942 registered ten-and-under players – more than twice the amount it was 10 years before.
While the increase in numbers can be attributed to the multiple Stanley Cups that have been brought to the region in the last 11 years, as well as the creation of the American Hockey League’s Pacific Division, the biggest contributing factor is clearly the dedication of the local NHL teams’ efforts to introduce the sport of hockey to their communities.
One of these programs is the Anaheim Ducks “Learn to Play” program, sponsored by Ducks players Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
Hockey has traditionally had higher barriers to entry than other sports, such as basketball or soccer. For starters, in order to play hockey, you first have to learn how to skate. Couple that with the high prices of hockey equipment, and it is easier to understand why youth hockey numbers have been lower than other sports, especially in sunny Southern California where backyard rinks are few and far between.
However, the four-week “Learn to Play” program offers first-time hockey players a chance to take the ice, receive coaching on the fundamentals of ice skating and hockey, and borrow a full set of hockey equipment, all at no cost to the participants. This program has helped eliminate some of the sport’s barriers to entry and made it accessible to everyone, from children to adults.
The program has also spurred an excitement for playing hockey in Southern California, reaching its 10,000th participant as the calendar turned over to 2018.
To celebrate the amazing milestone of introducing 10,000 participants to the sport of hockey through their renowned program, the Ducks held “Learn to Play Night” at the Honda Center on Tuesday, March 6, as they battled the Washington Capitals.
Throughout the game, former “Learn to Play” participants were recognized. These participants had the opportunity to experience Zamboni rides, joining Dawn Wright on the ice for the national anthem, and taking part in intermission games on the Honda Center ice. The night was capped off with two VIP participants heading down to the Ducks locker room for a special meet and greet with the players who help fund the program, Getzlaf and Perry.
Hopefully, it is not long before 10,000 more people learn to play the great game of hockey.
— THE RINKS Staff
(March 29, 2018)