This October, North Delta kids wanting to get a taste of ice hockey will be able to do so with a little help from the Lower Mainland’s favourite hockey team.
The Vancouver Canucks’ Learn to Play program will be partnering with the North Delta Minor Hockey Association for the third year in a row. Jessica Mann, North Delta Hockey’s division manager for ages five to eight, has been working with the program for the last two years. Her youngest son was in it last year.
“It’s been so popular, it’s really run smoothly,” she said. “Of course, the first couple years, getting the kinks out, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. This year, it seems like it’s running smoothly.”
Learn to Play is designed to give future hockey players between the ages of five and nine a chance to try the sport without paying the high fees associated with a full-season team. The six-week program costs $75 and goes for an hour each week starting in October (Mann isn’t yet sure exactly when).
During the program, which takes place at Sungod Arena, kids will learn basic on-ice hockey skills from North Delta mentors and former Canucks players including Jyrki Lumme and Kirk McLean.
In addition to instruction, the $75 fee gets players a set of equipment donated by the Canucks. This includes a helmet with cage, shoulder pads, elbow pads, hockey gloves, hockey pants, shin guards, skates, socks, stick, an equipment bag and a jersey.
“You can’t buy a helmet in hockey right now for $75,” Mann said. “Hockey is not a cheap sport.”
“This is meant for those kids that are new to hockey, or even those families that economically maybe can’t afford the equipment,” she continued. “They can get that and give their kids an opportunity to do something different.”
Registrants will be fitted for their equipment sometime in the fall, and the program will start after that.
In the past two years, interest in the Canucks Learn to Play program has grown exponentially. Although there were only between 25 to 35 registered in its first year, around 50 kids signed up last year. This year, Mann has another 50 spots available, although 26 are already filled.
“It’s just kind of snowballed,” Mann said. “I wish we could take 200 kids, but unfortunately we don’t have the manpower for that.”
Registration will be available for just North Delta residents for the first 40 spots. The remaining 10 will be open to kids from other municipalities that do not already have a Learn to Play program in their community.
Correction: The age range Mann manages was incorrectly identified in an earlier version of this article. It has been correct, and the North Delta Reporter regrets the error.