THE RINKS, Ducks proof that game of hockey truly is for everyone
Introduced last year, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association jointly hosted the first-ever Hockey Is For Everyone Month in February.
A part of the You Can Play program, the initiative reaffirms the official policy of the sport is one of the inclusion on the ice, in the locker rooms and in the stands.
“Our clubs, our players and our fans are committed to welcoming everyone to hockey,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “While the NHL family strives for diversity and inclusiveness all year long, February is Hockey Is For Everyone month, which will highlight, on a daily basis, the many ways our sport brings greater attention, heightened awareness and broader opportunities.”
This year, all 31 teams will celebrate with unique programming, partnerships, ceremonies and community activations.
In keeping with the campaign, THE RINKS will have special programming during the month to highlight the initiative and continue the year-long promotions of inclusion across all development hockey programs.
On Feb. 24, THE RINKS’ Top Flight program took center stage at THE RINKS-Lakewood ICE when over 50 new participants, all with special needs, took to the ice for their very first time at a Top Flight on ICE. The free event introduced these special participants to the sport of ice hockey with a special Try Hockey For Free session, group Learn to Skate, and public skating to enjoy with family and friends.
For individuals, who are not too comfortable on the ice, every Friday during the month THE RINKS-Huntington Beach Inline will host the street hockey edition of the Top Flight program, currently in its 15th season. This program gives individuals with special needs the chance to play street hockey in a safe environment with family and friends. Participants of all ages and skill levels receive advice from expert coaches to help develop their hockey skills and then put those skills to the test in a game.
Additionally, THE RINKS-Poway ICE is home to the newly-introduced San Diego Ducks Sled Hockey Program. One of the fastest growing sled hockey teams in the country, the program hosts youth and adult teams, many of which are disabled veterans.
Aaron Loy was selected for U.S. Men’s Development Sled Hockey Team, while Sarah Bettencourt, founder of the San Diego Ducks sled team, was selected for the U.S. Women’s Sled Hockey team and will be in PyeongChang for the 2018 Paralympics Games next month.
“We are excited for Sarah’s selection to the U.S. Women’s Sled Hockey team,” said THE RINKS marketing director Jesse Chatfield. “Her love for the game on and off the ice has made a huge difference for many individuals who either thought their hockey careers were over or would never start. We are looking forward to her representing us and our country during the upcoming season.”
For the public, THE RINKS has led the league with affordable and accessible avenues to hockey with two development beginner programs. The first is the Anaheim Ducks Learn to Play Hockey program, powered by Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, which provides affordable ways for both youth and adults to get started playing hockey. The program offers first-time hockey players a chance to get on the rink, play hockey, and borrow a full set of hockey equipment for free.
For those already comfortable skating, but new to hockey, THE RINKS offer, in conjunction with the NHL’s Learn to Play initiative, the Little Ducks Hockey Initiation program – a six-week, low-cost program that provides participants with their own set of free hockey equipment to keep.
Although Hockey is for Everyone month is celebrated in February, THE RINKS is committed to making hockey programs accessible for everyone every month of the year and strives to offer a variety of different programs for boys and girls of all ages and skill levels, and different outlets to enjoy the sport.
— THE RINKS Staff
(Feb. 26, 2018)