Golden’s newest hockey players got their first taste of Canada’s sport last week when the First Shift program came to town.
When the country’s leading hockey organizations saw the state of the game in Canada, they decided to create this program to give young Canadians the chance to play.
“Bauer and Hockey Canada got together and the stats that they had showed that over 90 per cent of kids in Canada don’t play hockey. That’s a staggering number for a sport we all love,” said Bauer’s Rob Wighton.
“As a leader in the industry, and obviously with Hockey Canada leading the whole country with hockey, we got together to bring this program to Canada.”
The First Shift includes a complete outfitting of new equipment, and a six-week session of on-ice training for kids who have never played organized hockey before. It’s a perfect fit for Golden, where minor hockey numbers aren’t high. And with the Kraft Hockey Goes On money that was won in 2013, the cost to each player was a very affordable $99, just a fraction of what the equipment would regularly cost.
“We’re outfitting the kids, making sure everything fits properly. You don’t need the elite equipment to start playing hockey,” said Wighton. “That way when you fall, and you do fall when you’re learning, then you’re not getting hurt.”
It’s not all about the equipment, however. After realizing that they needed to change the way hockey was being offered, The First Shift came up with a six-week session, giving kids enough time to fall in love with the game, without requiring the commitment of a whole season.
“Coming to a place like Golden is fantastic. Minor hockey numbers here were not large. We have 47 enrolled (in the First Shift), and I believe that’s over half of what’s established here in minor hockey. So for us that’s an unbelievable success. And after a couple weeks I think we’ll see just how much these kids learn to love hockey, and hopefully we’ll see the minor hockey program here grow. And really that’s our goal, to grow the game of hockey nationwide,” said Wighton.