Craig Youth Hockey Association teaching sport from the ice up

If you go …

What: Craig Youth Hockey Association’s “Learn to Play Hockey” program

When: 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Nov. 29 to Dec. 15

Where: Moffat County Ice Arena, 600 S. Ranney St.

— The cost is $35.

Just as youths have to learn to walk before they can run, first-time hockey players have to skate before they can play.

The Craig Youth Hockey Association has set out to help youths who want to learn hockey, whether they are learning to skate or need tutelage on basics of the game.

Through a three-step program, players can be more equipped with the skills they need to succeed in hockey as they get older, board member Matt Beckett said.

“Hockey is unlike a lot of other sports in that you don’t run, but skate to move around,” Beckett said. “Part of being a good hockey player is knowing how to skate well, and if you don’t learn it, you will struggle in every area of the game.”

The first step in the program was the “Learn to Skate” segment, which ran from Nov. 7 to 22, and included eight one-hour sessions.

Beckett said the first step once included lessons on how to skate and play hockey in the same night.

From his own experience, Beckett said a change was in order.

“We used to give every kid a stick right from the start and teach them how to skate and how to play hockey at one time,” he said. “My own kids did it that way, but we noticed a lot of kids would use their stick for balance and not really know how to skate. They were just forming poor habits and using the stick as a crutch, so we wanted them to really learn how to skate.”

With about 40 children participating in the first year of the new program, Beckett said the youth were able to succeed because they made skating fun.

“We would give them chairs to help them balance to start with, but they knew they couldn’t use it all the time,” he said. “We want them to enjoy the game and enjoy being on the ice, so our biggest focus was having fun.

“We would have games like red light, green light, and the kids would have fun but also be learning how to stop on skates.”

For the kids still interested in learning to play hockey, they can join the “Learn to Play Hockey” segment, which starts Tuesday and runs until Dec. 5.

The group will meet from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday during that time. The cost is $35.

Beckett said most of the kids they plan to teach are from ages 5 to 13, but younger skaters are welcome if they have a basic understanding of skating.

“A lot of kids, when they start hockey, they don’t know the game that well or the rules,” he said. “We split the kids into small groups and run them through drills so they can get as much time with a puck as possible.

“The drills also help with creativity because we let them go free with the drills and try new things and see what they come up with.”

Then, if children want to continue with hockey, they can join the house league for first-year club hockey players.

Beckett said the house league has a more structured atmosphere and gives players a lot of hockey experience.

As the players get older, they can move up through the teams, from mites to squirts to bantams and finally the Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey team.

Ultimately, Beckett said, the three-step program is to get youth involved in winter sports and hopefully build skills they can use for the rest of their lives.

“Hockey is a great winter sport and it keeps kids in really good shape,” he said. “A lot of youth sports are only a couple of months long, but the hockey program is six months and is a good way to go for kids who want to try a new sport.”

For those interested in joining the “Learn to Play Hockey” segment, or for more information, call Beckett at 824-5752.

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