If you’re reading this, you were probably a hockey fan before our beloved Caps won the Stanley Cup this last spring. But for some of you — because hockey isn’t exactly mainstream in many parts of the world — your fandom may have made you feel like some kind of subversive weirdo.
Where I grew up in Connecticut, my only connection to hockey was yelling “Let’s Go Whalers” at basketball games as a joke. (If you don’t know, the Whalers were relocated from Hartford, CT in 1997, and became the Carolina Hurricanes. And before you ask, yes, I was still in middle school in 1997.) And that’s Connecticut. As in, New England. As in a place where ice is naturally occurring, enough to have backyard ice rinks…
…but I digress. The point is, when the Caps won and thousands took to the streets to celebrate, it marked a turning point for the sport of hockey. For the first time in a long time, hockey was being shown on ESPN and people cared about it. Well-coiffed people on morning talk shows were talking about Ovi and his trademark gap-toothed grin. (Is “Missing-toothed” a phrase?)
So it should come as no surprise that an uptick in people showing interest in learning how to play our treasured sport is happening, and it’s happening big-time. The Washington Post just wrote an article about it. (That’s how you know it’s true, and we’re not just suffering from some kind of post-Cup delusion.)
Adult hockey leagues are experiencing a much-needed influx of people rediscovering their misspent youths. New rinks are being funded in Maryland and Virginia for people who may not have had access to one previously. And young kids all over the Metro area are strapping on skates for the first time and shuffling their adorable, helmeted selves across that hallowed slippery surface.
One of the coolest programs we need to draw attention to is the Learn to Skate program. If you follow that link to their website, they have a handy-dandy way to search for the closest ice rink by zip code, and the programs available there. We entered in a random VA zip, and tons of little red flags popped up with options.
And then, once you’ve mastered the art of falling on your butt gracefully, there’s the Learn to Play Hockey program, which is just so cool it might as well wear sunglasses at night. THEY WILL GIVE YOUR CHILD FREE HOCKEY EQUIPMENT. That’s right. They want you to learn how to play so badly, they’ll make sure you have everything you need. (Except a mouth guard, people. That’s on you.) Here’s the registration link for the Capitals area, but most NHL teams participate if you’re reading this somewhere other than VA/MD/DC.
And that’s just the ones affiliated with that specific program. We highly recommend you check out the local rec center near you to see if they have a rink, because I’m often surprised by how many exist; quietly, coldly lingering in some forgotten corner where only devoted skaters strap on their blades to enjoy its frosty oasis. For those of you in VA, try this link.
And, for those of you whose tailbones are still aching from that time you tried to skate in 8th grade, there are so many street hockey options it’s incredible. The NHL is promoting an event on August 18th in Hagerstown, so check it out here.
Finally, we get it. There are some who’d rather cheer from the cheap seats. So for you, here is a video of multiple four-year-olds falling down during a Learn to Skate lesson my middle child took at Kettler this summer (he’s the Minion wearing Caps gear. duh.)