Girls sign up for "First Shift"
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Dan Hunt, with the Canadian Tire “First Shift” program, fits a new player with a skate as 45 girls attend the initiative's launch at the Pembroke and Area Community Centre. Administered locally by the Ottawa Valley Thunder, First Shift is designed to make entering hockey more accessible, affordable, safe, and fun.
Girls from across the region enrolled recently in the Canadian Tire “First Shift” program, an initiative designed to make entering hockey more accessible, affordable, safe, and fun.
On Oct. 1, 45 girls between the ages of six and 12 and their parents showed up at the Pembroke and Area Community Centre to enroll in First Shift. The Ottawa Valley Thunder league are the local administrators of the program which is offered by Canadian Tire in partnership with Bauer and Hockey Canada.
“It's a good day for our organization,” said Petawawa Thunder co-ordinator Dean DeRuiter. “Our goal is to get more girls interested in hockey, our national pastime.”
For a registration fee of $199, the kids are kitted out from head-to-toe in equipment including helmets, pads, skates, gloves and sticks. The program also includes on-ice sessions that will cover a variety of skating skills, puck handling, passing and shooting exercises, basic motor movement patterns, and fun games.
Changing demographics and increased costs in hockey have resulted in years of declining enrolment in many minor hockey leagues across Canada. First Shift aims to remove any intimidation as it relates to equipment requirements, rules of the game, remove potential safety concerns provide an experience that is memorable and fun, according to program administrators. They also want to ensure a positive experience for families that are new to hockey.
“As Canadian Tire, sport has been part of our DNA for 95 years and we understand the important role that hockey plays in the life of Canadians,” said Rick Johnson, owner of Canadian Tire Pembroke. “Playing hockey is a great way for the kids to get active. Hockey ignites the shared passion from coast-to-coast to help build strong communities by teaching you sportsmanship, team work, dedication and many other core values needed throughout your life.”
Although hockey can be an expensive undertaking for parents, it is a sport that can resonate with the kids well beyond their youth.
“When I played I made a lot of friends which will last a lifetime,” said Ottawa Valley Thunder coach Abbey McEwen, who is looking forward to passing on many of the skills that she gained out of the program.