The Herb Brooks Foundation’s (HBF) mission is “grow the game of hockey,” and the Foundation has found lots of community support as it works to do that in Saint Paul, Minn.
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.
Here's the Rink Rats program at Phalen Arena last year. This year, the HBF is expanding to two St. Paul programs.
The Foundation’s Rink Rats program aims to address all those barriers. It’s a learn-to-skate program for kids from 8 to 12 years old. The Foundation has been running 12 successful school-based Rink Rats programs in Minneapolis for several years. Last winter, the HBF experimented with one program in Saint Paul and this year there will be two.
And they’re doing it with a lot of community support. Volunteer coaches from the St. Paul Police Athletic League (PAL) will be pitching in to help get the programs off the ground at Phalen Arena at Johnson High School and Harding High School.
“It’s a good opportunity for kids to see officers in a nontraditional light and also a really excellent opportunity for officers to help our community grow and become stronger,” Sgt. Mike McGinn told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. McGinn is the PAL’s Activities League Coordinator.
The PAL coaches will have plenty of support. Players from the Johnson and Mahtomedi High School boys’ hockey teams will also help coach. Jake O’Borsky, who plays at Hamline University has also joined the volunteer coaching crew. Kelly Brooks Paradise, Herb Brooks’ daughter, will be there as well.
Ramsey County is supporting the program with ice time and Dave's Sport Shop printed jerseys.
Amy Alt, the HBF’s Rink Rats director also gives credit to the coaches from FHIT Hockey.
“The FHIT coaches have really stepped up to handle the coaching responsibilities at the Minneapolis Rink Rats clubs,” she said. “Without that support, the HBF wouldn’t have had the time and resources to invest in the new St. Paul programs. There is definitely interest from families, but it takes a lot of work to get new programs started. We want to make sure we’re running a solid program. And that takes time.”
Here’s an example of the behind-the-scenes effort it takes. Alt, who is an experienced skating instructor, spent two days with the PAL coaches running them through on-ice training in learn-to-skate instruction, all before the first kids take the ice.
McGinn points out that many of the PAL coaches have hockey experience, but not all. So they’ll be learning along with the kids.
The sessions will be held for six Mondays, from January 18 through February 22. The Phalen Arena program runs from 5:50-6:50 p.m. and the Harding program runs from 7:40-8:40 p.m. A limited number of spots remaining for both sessions. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to register and for more information.
Click here to read reporter Mara Gottfried’s article about PAL’s support of Rink Rats in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.