Got a hockey-loving kiddo, or just thinking about having your kids try a new sport? Learn to Play, a joint partnership created by the NHL and National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), made possible through RWJBarnabas Health, is the program you need to know about. With a goal to inspire kids, teach them fundamentals on and off the ice, and welcome families into the hockey community, it’s a winner on all fronts. But it also stands out for being reasonably priced, at rinks all around the state, and get this—your kids learn from New Jersey Devils alumni players. We’re talking about Stanley Cup Champions, on the ice with your kids, and teaching them how to shoot the puck— how cool is that? Read for more about the program, how RWJBarnabas Health educates the rising players on healthy habits, and what parents are saying about it.
The New Jersey Devils handle the hockey, RWJBarnabas handles the health
The program is open to first-time participants, boys, and girls, ages 4-9, and includes head-to-toe equipment. For eight weeks, newbies learn hockey basics from alumni players like 2-time Stanley Cup winner Grant Marshall, who runs drills with the kids and naturally inspires them with stories of his rise to hockey stardom. “They go from being Bambi on skates at first to chasing us around, drawing penalties, which is amazing to see the transformation,” says Marshall.
The rising players also get overall fitness, health, and nutrition education from RWJBarnabas Health—the official healthcare provider for the team. “We’ve had a longstanding relationship with the New Jersey Devils, they handle all the on-ice skating and stick handling skills, and then we do everything else. So we’ll do a dynamic warmup, provide information on nutrition, concussions, and sports performance, and all of the education that’s important for not just the kids, but the parents as well,” says Justin Edelman, Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships for RWJBarnabas Health.
Through Play Like a Devil, parents learn too
NJMOM Lauren Ores is a newbie hockey mom. Her son is just 5 years old, but already she’s been blown away at his progress through the program. “He’s improved his skating and using the stick while on skates. This is his first time skating with equipment, so he’s gotten comfortable with that,” says Ores, who’s from Summit. What’s more, kids learn from the pros the details of the game and build skills they can use as they develop into competitive players. “It’s a great introductory program to give these families the best experience possible with the game of hockey,” adds Kevin Fox, who leads NJ Devils Community and Youth Hockey programs.
And families say the program has surpassed the experience they even hoped for, giving their kids confidence, joy, and newfound skills. “It’s a great way to get him with professionals, and also get him a lot of the equipment, and have fun,” says Ores. But the real joy is seeing how much their son loves it, says dad Joe Sandwith. “Once he hits the ice, he gets back up and doesn’t get discouraged. He can go through the whole rundown of the Devils and knows everybody on the team. He tells me how to play this game!”
Here’s how to sign up your little player
Check out the Learn to Play program for rinks around the state and registration availability. Most programs start in the fall and winter and run for about 8 weeks. The costs vary by facility, but you can expect to spend $275 for the entire program (which includes equipment). RWJBarnabas Health partners with the Devils on all their grassroots programs to support their mission of building healthier communities. These programs are a part of their commitment to health, wellness, and living an active and healthy lifestyle.
This post is sponsored by RWJBarnabas Health to help make every #NJMOM her healthiest.
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