Mar 13, 2023 - Things to Do

Florida Panthers' hockey program for kids includes free gear

Kids in the Learn to Play program. Photo courtesy of Florida Panthers

Last year, I told my TikTok-addled kid that he could pick a sport — any sport — as long as he got off the stupid phone.

  • Did he choose something cheap and convenient, that his mother understood, like running? Of course not. He chose hockey.

What's happening: I had to pay the piper, but other parents of hockey-playing kids may not have to.

  • The Florida Panthers have spots available for their Learn to Play program — developed to reduce the cost barrier for kids starting the sport — at the IceDen in Coral Springs (and Palm Beach County).

Details: Kids ages 5 to 9 get six weeks of instruction with Florida Panthers alumni and USA Hockey-certified coaches. One session is specially for girls.

  • There's a $225 fee, but it includes free gear.

What they're saying: "The NHL and NHLPA saw a need for a program run by NHL Clubs that would help to continue to increase youth hockey participation," team spokesperson Chrissy Parente told Axios.

  • Roughly 3,000 kids have gone through the program since its inception about eight years ago.

The intrigue: Parente declined to give a dollar value for the gear, but I can tell you it saves a lot. My credit card and I soon learned that:

  • Hockey players wear special underwear, which their socks get stuck to. Those "socks" are really just tubes, like leg-warmers. They need regular socks, too.
  • Hockey "pants" are padded shorts.
  • Add skates, jersey, shoulder and elbow pads, gloves, shin guards, helmet, stick and bag, and this single mom was lookin' at close to $1,000.
  • Learn to Play provides everything but the undergarments.

If you go: We did lessons at Pines Ice (which always has a good Groupon!) and hid out half of the boiling-hot summer skating inside the Scott Rakow Youth Center on Miami Beach.

Pro tips: To prevent my whining child from being murdered (by me) and get his skates tight enough, I invested in a lace tightener. Best $2.99 I ever spent. Also, don't forget a jock strap!

  • To make my baby deliriously happy on the way home, we would stop for Pokemon-themed bubble teas at Bobaman. Get the Bulbasaur!
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