March 3, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
A popular program that provides affordable hockey lessons and equipment to kids aged 5 through 8 is about to begin in Long Island City and registration is now open.
The program, Learn to Play, is organized by the New York Islanders as part of a national initiative where the NHL and NHL Players’ Association team up with clubs to teach children how to play hockey.
The initiative, now in its fourth year, aims to alleviate some of the obstacles associated with accessing the sport that includes high equipment costs and ice time.
Eight weekly sessions will be provided to boys and girls at LIC-ICE, a specialized indoor ice skating facility located at 10-12 46th Rd. in Long Island City, at a cost of $250 per program, including equipment. Programs run in the spring, summer and fall.
The spring sessions kick off on Mar. 30 and there are only about 20 spaces remaining for this course.
A maximum of 12 children per session will receive coaching from New York Islanders-affiliated coaches with drop-in sessions featuring former Islanders players like Arron Asham and Radek Martínek.
Registered kids will be provided with “head-to-toe” equipment including an ice hockey stick and helmet, skates, pads, gloves, a jersey as well as an equipment bag and more. The equipment typically costs $450.
The children who participate in the program will get to keep the equipment.
“This has been tremendously successful in encouraging the vast majority of kids to continue playing the sport and we have converted LIC into an Islanders hockey stronghold,” said Lucia Grosek, who manages LIC-ICE.
“I see hundreds of kids with New York Islanders hockey bags and hockey sticks walking around LIC and coming to our facility so it’s become really big and popular. Around 380 kids from LIC and Astoria alone have come through our doors and kids and parents love it, we hope to build on it.”
In total about 700 children have completed the Learn to Play program at the facility since the program’s inception. Many come from across the Tri-State area and session size numbers have been bumped up from 10 to 12 to cope with the demand.
“We have been overwhelmed with interest and it gives us an extremely strong feeling of reward,” Grosek said. “But it would be impossible without the league’s support, and in particular, Learn to Play’s director, Jimmy Iucci, who has been a huge part of this success.”
Learn to Play has put hundreds of local LIC and Queens kids on the path to hockey and LIC ICE also offers advanced programs for kids who have graduated from the program and have fallen in love with hockey. Almost 97% of Learn to Play graduates have continued their hockey development, another marker of the program’s success.
Registration and more information on the Learn to Play program can be found at the following link: https://learntoplay.nhl.com/islanders
Readers can learn more about LIC-ICE and its facilities here: http://www.licice.com
Advanced registration is required for the program, with early enrollment encouraged because of the high demand that LIC-ICE has seen in the past.