Blaine, Minn. (November 9, 2015) -- Even in Minnesota, which brands itself as “The State of Hockey,” many young hockey enthusiasts never get a chance to try the game, never are taught the basic skills, and may never even learn to ice skate. Increasing ethnic diversity in Twin Cities schools mean many kids come from families that revere soccer or cricket more than hockey. Economic challenges are a barrier to others, and many families just don’t know how to sign their children up to play hockey.
But in the never-say-die attitude of Minnesota hockey legend Herb Brooks, the Herb Brooks Foundation (HBF) is tackling those challenges head-on through its Rink Rats program.
HBF Rink Rats Coach Joe Baker works with students at the Hmong International Academy in Minneapolis. This fall, kids are playing on dry land. Rink Rats moves onto the ice in January.
The Rink Rats program provides opportunities for children to learn the basics of the game of hockey and skating. The program focus is aimed at kids who wouldn't normally be exposed to the game. Rink Rats has become a core program of the Herb Brooks Foundation’s mission to grow the game of hockey. Over 300 kids participated in the Rink Rats program last winter season.
The fall Rink Rats season has started at nine schools in the Twin Cities: Bancroft, Hale, Jenny Lind, Sonnyson, Waite Park, Marcy Open, Hmong International Academy, and Kenny Elementary Schools, as well as Franklin Middle School. Dowling, Northrup and Seward Schools will start their programs in January.
The fall Rink Rats season started in early October and will run right up to the holiday break in December. Currently, kids are learning hockey skills on gym floors and asphalt playgrounds. Once outdoor park rinks open in January, they’ll take to the ice. Rink Rats will skate once a week through the end of February.
The Herb Brooks Foundation provides skates, sticks, helmets and qualified coaches, all for free. Importantly, Rink Rats programs are held immediately after or before school, and they’re based at the kids’ schools, so travel and access barriers are minimized. It’s easy for kids to participate, a crucial factor why more schools want to add a Rink Rats program.
“We’re in a growth management mode,” says HBF Program Director Amy Alt. “We want each program to meet quality standards with good equipment and qualified coaches. We need to maintain safety and quality standards, so we’re growing carefully. Our biggest obstacles are acquiring funding and recruiting coaches. Our coaches are certified through the USA Hockey Coaches Education Program.”
The major Rink Rats sponsor is Morrie’s Automotive Group. Herb Brooks’ daughter Kelly Brooks Paradise and his grandsons, Joe and Tommy Paradise pitch in to coach. The National Hockey League Players’ Association, Robinson Fresh, Total Hockey and Dave’s Sport Shop provide additional equipment.
Schools with an interest in starting a Rink Rats program should contact Amy Alt, 763.785.5645, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is the fall Rink Rats schedule. Media coverage is welcome. Please contact Barclay Kruse, Herb Brooks Foundation Media Director, 763785.5634, email@example.com.
Bancroft Elementary, 1315 E 38th St, Minneapolis, MN 55407, Mondays 1:45-3 p.m. except November 23. Fall season ends December 14.
Hale Elementary (meets at Pearl Park, 414 E Diamond Lake Rd, Minneapolis, MN 55419,) Tuesdays 2-3:20 p.m. except November 24. Fall season ends December 15.
Waite Park Elementary School, 1800 34th Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418, Tuesdays 3:50-5:20 p.m. except November 24. Fall season ends December 15.
Jenny Lind Elementary School, 5025 Bryant Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55430, Wednesdays 3:15-4:45 p.m. except November 25. Fall season ends December 16.
Marcy Open School, 415 4th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414, Wednesdays 3:15-4:45 p.m. except November 25. Fall season ends December 16.
Franklin Middle School, 1501 Aldrich Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55411, Wednesdays 5-6 p.m. except November 25. Fall season ends December 16.
Sonnyson Elementary School, 3421 Boone Ave N, New Hope, MN 55427, Thursdays 8-9:10 a.m. except November 26. Fall season ends December 17.
Hmong International Academy, 1501 30th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55411, Thursdays 2-3:30 p.m. except November 26. Fall season ends December 17.
Kenny Elementary School, 5720 Emerson Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55419, Thursdays 3-4 p.m. except November 26. Fall season ends December 17.
Dowling, Northrup and Seward Schools will start their programs in January.