It was a full house Saturday at the David McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena, with 40 registered and seven additional walk-in youngsters laced up and ready for some "Try Hockey For Free," event Coordinator Sharon Valyear Gray says.
The event was hosted by Genesee Amateur Hockey Association as part of USA Hockey Week Across America. Local youth, ages 4 to 9, were welcomed at the rink to experience getting on the ice, learning fundamentals of how to skate, how to get up after falling, basic skills with a hockey stick and shooting pucks into a hockey net, with the guidance of a head coach and on-ice helpers, Gray said.
This year the youngsters had the experience of shooting at actual goalies Rhyss Tanner of the Varisty Batavia Notre Dame team as well as Leo Gray of the Junior Varisty BND team.
“We welcomed families to McCarthy Ice Rink from Batavia, Albion, Alexander, Stafford, Medina, LeRoy, Caledonia, Pavilion, Rochester, Corfu, Freedom, Warsaw, Honeoye Falls, Castile, Oakfield, Darien Center, and Holley to try our great sport of ice hockey,” Gray said. “Our goal is for these families to enjoy watching their kids learn new skills with big smiles on their faces and for the youngsters the on-ice experience.”
Head coach Erik Triftshauser, along with Fred Hamilton – both with more than 30 years experience as GAHA and high school players and coaches -- and on-ice helpers from the United high school teams, worked with the kids, who all seemed "so excited to be coached," and skating with local athletes, Gray said.
The event is hosted by the Try Hockey for Free Coordinators Sharon and Bob Gray and the GAHA Beginner Player Coordinator Marcia Barnes on behalf of the Genesee Amateur Hockey Association, which provided the ice, and the McCarthy Rink staff – General Manager Katie Murray, Rink Operating Manager Matt Gray and their "great staff," Sharon Gray said.
The team’s goal is to provide the hockey experience to area youngsters free of charge and encourage them in October to become a player in the GAHA Beginner Program, which begins the first week of October. The Beginner Program consists of two sessions (October to December and January to March) with a total of 15 on-ice hours per session.
The GAHA Beginner Program started Session II in early January and added 17 out of 23 new players from the November “Try Hockey for Free” Event. Gray encourages folks to mark your calenda for this fall, as the next try hockey for free event is the first Saturday in November.
Skates used by the youngsters were provided free of charge by the McCarthy Rink Management Group.
USA Hockey’s Try Hockey program, with the support of the National Hockey League and NHL member clubs, among others, is designed to provide youth hockey associations with a national platform for introducing children to the sport, free of charge.
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Photos by Steve Ognibene