Making falling fun

Hockey program produces ample smiles, new opportunities for community

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At first it might be a little scary for parents to watch their children during the Craig Youth Hockey Association's Introduction to Skating and Hockey Program. The young skaters fall to the ice frontward, backward, sideways and in multiple combinations of all three.

The comforting thing for parents is when the rookie-on-ice get up with big smiles showing through their hockey mask.

"That's what the pads are for," CYHA President Mike Boatright said about skaters slipping to the icy floor. "We tell them that if they're making progress, they're probably going to fall."

If that's the case, there was a good amount of progress being made Thursday night at the Loudy-Simpson Ice Arena.

Billy Davis, 8, said this year was his second time to do the ITSH program.

"I have everything figured out by the staying up part," he said. "Today I learned I have to hold the stick with both hands."

Davis also said he planned to play in the house league this year, but after two years he still didn't understand one thing.

"How is it that they keep the ice cold when it's so hot in here?" the sweaty 8-year-old said.

The CYHA started the introductory program to give residents of all ages a chance to check out hockey.

"We want this to be an affordable opportunity to check out hockey," he said. "Every year it has grown, and it has helped a lot of people of all ages see if they like hockey."

The CYHA provides the protective gear for all participants. Every year, CYHA has to buy more equipment to coincide with the program's growing popularity.

"We grew by 15 percent this year," Boatright said.

This year, 61 participants from toddler to adult came out for the program.

Austin Corson, a Moffat County High School freshman, didn't have the ITSH program when he was growing up.

"My brother taught me," he said. "But this would have been nice to have then."

The 12-and-younger skaters are separated into three skill levels, and Corson helped teach the most advanced group Thursday night.

"Some of them really learn fast," he said. "It's fun to help because it brings back good memories of learning."

One of Corson's trainees was Breanne Willshire. The nine-year-old ("soon to be 10," she wanted to make clear) decided to try hockey after first learning to figure skate.

"I just wanted to try (hockey)," she said. "Figure states are a lot harder because they have a toe break."

Her experience has made hockey her new sport.

"I like it because you can skate faster in hockey," she said. "It also doesn't hurt when you fall. I got hit by a puck tonight, and it didn't even hurt."

The growth of the CYHA, which Boatright gives some credit to ITSH for, includes an all-girls team for the first time this year.

Willshire said she plans to join the team.

"We start practice Tuesday," she said. 'I'm excited to try it out."

The fifth year of ITSH concludes next week. After that, skaters can sign up for the house league if they want to continue playing.

"It's good to see the new faces every year," Boatright said. "The smiles definitely make it worth it."

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