Florida Panthers Aim to Teach, Make Hockey Accessible to Local Youth

The Florida Panthers' Michael Haley helps a Learn To Play participant sign a mock contract to the hockey team. Photo provided by the Florida Panthers.
The Florida Panthers' Michael Haley helps a Learn To Play participant sign a mock contract to the hockey team. Photo provided by the Florida Panthers.
The Florida Panthers’ Michael Haley helps a Learn To Play participant sign a mock contract to the hockey team. Photo provided by the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers’ Michael Haley helped initiate kids into the world of ice hockey last weekend. Haley was part of the team’s Learn To Play program, which invites local children to get fitted into gear and sign mock contracts to join the big leagues.

During Sunday’s event, which took place at the BB&T Center, Haley donned his red Panthers jersey and took photos beside dozens of 5-to 9-year-old kids. “Once they get a taste of hockey, it’s hard to get out of your system.” Haley tells Boca. “Anytime you can introduce the sport of hockey, and especially with giving them gear, I’m sure they’ll have lots of fun.”

Now that the boys and girls have been fitted into gear, they will participate in a six-week long course, taught by Florida Panthers Alumni and USA Hockey Certified Coaches, with the aim of turning them into the next generation of hockey players and fans.

“Learn to Play is a pivotal part of the Florida Panthers outreach efforts. Our goal is to introduce kids to the sport and put sticks in kids’ hands,” said Panthers Director of Community Relations John Colombo. “ With Learn To Play we are able to provide equipment and on-ice training at an affordable cost for all families in South Florida to have the opportunity to allow their children to get out and try the sport of hockey.”

In conjunction with USA Hockey’s “Gold Standard,” which uses an age appropriate long-term developmental model, the curriculum of the Learn To Play program is designed to ensure that kids not only have fun, but also learn the skills necessary to play the game well.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to introduce my son to a sport I didn’t think he’d be able to play,” says Kimberley Miller about her 8-year-old son, Finnley. “He’s so excited. He has not put his stick down since he received it and I’ve never seen him take to a sport so quickly.”

There are still slots open for sessions during the summer. If you are interested in signing your kids up for the August classes, you can sign up at Palm Beach Skate Zone. If September works better for you though, you can sign your kids up at the Florida Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs.

The cost of entry is $150 and every participant will be given equipment that they can use during the program and keep at the conclusion of their course. To learn more about the event, you can read more by clicking here.