Blaine, Minn. (October 18, 2018) -- 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.
After the fall indoor season, the Herb Brooks Foundation's Rink Rats programs will move outdoors onto real 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 4,000 kids have participated in the HBF’s introductory hockey programs over the past two years.
The fall Rink Rats season started the first week in October at 14 Minneapolis schools: Anderson, Bancroft, Dowling, Folwell, Green Central, Hale, Hmong International Academy, Jefferson, Kenny, Marcy Open, Northrup, Seward, Sonnesyn and Waite Park,
During the fall season, kids will learn 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 in keeping doors open for kids to join the fun.
“The growth of the Rink Rats program over the years into new schools is a testament to the interest kids still have to learn hockey skills,” said Herb Brooks Foundation Program Director Kalli Funk. “For the majority of these kids hockey is a very ‘foreign’ sport. But they grow to love it.”
Funk said the memory, and influence, of Herb Brooks touches the Rink Rats program.
“I think Herb Brooks would be very proud of the program,” continued Funk. “He always talked about building it from the ground up and I think that’s exactly what we’re doing here. (Kids) can start whenever they’d like. We’re trying to just keep the base growing all the way up, and I think he’d be really proud of what we’re doing here.
“It’s interesting to see as kids come through the program, there’s a little bit of a learning curve with the name Herb Brooks, who he was, and the legacy that he left, so we’re always striving to teach them about Herb Brooks, teach them about the 1980 team, and the importance of what he was trying to teach everyone in the hockey world and the world outside of hockey.”
The Rink Rats Program would not happen without the support of Minneapolis community services programs, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the cooperation of Minneapolis Public Schools, the National Hockey League Players Association and the generous sponsorship of Morrie’s Automotive Group, which is providing the student transportation from the schools to the local parks in Minneapolis. Other sponsors include Dave’s Sport Shop, the Butzow Foundation, the Minnesota Wild Foundation, Let’s Play Hockey, RBC Wealth Management, and the Minneapolis Police Activities League program.
Schools with an interest in starting a Rink Rats program should contact Kalli Funk, HBF Program Director, 763.792.7356, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is the fall 2018 Rink Rats schedule. Media coverage is welcome. Please contact Barclay Kruse, Herb Brooks Foundation Media Director, 763.458.6615 (cell), email@example.com.
Bancroft Elementary, 1315 E 38th St, Minneapolis, but held at Powderhorn Park. Mondays 3:10-5 p.m. Starts October 8; fall season ends December 17. No sessions on October 15 and November 19.
Dowling Elementary, 3900 West River Parkway, Minneapolis. 3:05-5:05 p.m. Starts October 1; fall season ends December 17. No sessions on October 15 and November 19.
Jefferson Elementary, 1200 West 26th St, Minneapolis. 4-5:20 p.m. Starts October 2; fall season ends December 18. No sessions on October 16 and November 20.
Hale Elementary, 1220 East 54th St, Minneapolis, but held at Pearl Park. 2-3:30 p.m. Starts October 9; fall season ends December 18. No sessions on October 16 and November 20.
Waite Park Elementary, 1800 34th Ave NE, Minneapolis. 4-5:20 p.m. Starts October 2; fall season ends December 18. No sessions on October 16 and November 20.
Folwell Elementary, 3611 20th Ave S, Minneapolis. 3:30-5:30 p.m. Starts October 3; fall season ends December 19. No sessions on October 17 and November 21.
Green Central Elementary, 3416 4th Ave S, Minneapolis. 2:50-3:45 p.m. Starts October 3; fall season ends December 19. No sessions on October 17 and November 21.
Marcy Open Elementary, 415 4th Ave SE, Minneapolis. 3-5 p.m. Starts October 3; fall season ends December 19. No sessions on October 17 and November 21.
Seward Elementary, 2309 S 28th Ave, Minneapolis. 2:30-4:45 p.m. Starts October 3; fall season ends December 19. No sessions on October 17 and November 21.
Sonnesyn Elementary, 3421 Boone Ave N, Minneapolis. 8-9:15 a.m. Starts October 3; fall season ends December 19. No sessions on October 17 and November 21.
Hmong International Academy, 1501 N 30th Ave, Minneapolis. 2-3:15 p.m. Fall season ends December 20. No sessions on October 17 and November 21.
Northrup Elementary, 4315 S 31st Ave, Minneapolis. 3:45-5:15 p.m. Fall season ends December 20. No sessions on October 17 and November 21.
Kenny Elementary, 5720 Emerson Ave S, Minneapolis. 2:30-4:45 p.m. Fall season ends December 20. No sessions on October 17 and November 21.
Anderson Elementary, 1098 Anderson Lane, Minneapolis. 2-3:05 p.m. Fall season ends December 20. No sessions on October 17 and November 21.