In May 2013, I decided that I wanted to learn how to play hockey. Eager to get started taking lessons as soon as possible, I signed up for the "It's Never Too Late" (INTL) Adult Hockey Clinic at the Franklin Park Ice Arena. Here is a review of my experience taking hockey lessons at Franklin Park.
Target Audience: You should have basic skating skills (forwards, backwards and any kind of stop) if you enroll in this class. This really is not the class to learn how to skate, though we did practice skating and not just play with the pucks. Students in my class ranged from absolute beginners (zero hockey experience) to those who played a bit as kids but quit for a while. So, if you are a total noob, you will still fit in.
Cost - ★★★★☆
The average cost of ice time for hockey instruction is roughly $20 per hour. My cost for the INTL class during the summer was $150 for seven (7) one-hour sessions. That's an average of $21.43 per class, which is about right. During the fall and spring, the INTL class costs around $236 for 11 classes -- an average of $21.46. But you also have to pay for a one-year membership to USA Hockey ($53) which will increase your bottom-line cost for the class. Also keep in mind that people who live within Franklin Park's district will pay about 10% less. (Note that these prices are subject to change.)
Ice Surface - ★★★☆☆
Franklin Park's INTL class is held on their studio ice arena -- a.k.a. "the rinky dink." It measures 80 feet long and 60 feet wide, so it is less than half the size of a standard hockey rink. You really can't build up too much speed before having to turn or stop. Also, the rink can start to feel crowded when the group exceeds 10 students. Another problem is that while the ice is always resurfaced before the adult class, it is sometimes choppy and pitted, especially near the boards. All my classmates had their fair share of wipe-outs due to the ice surface being less-than-ideal at times. But that's to be expected from any rink.
Class Size - ★★★☆☆
I believe this class tops off at 16 students, which is too many adults for a class held on the studio ice. However, when I took the class over the summer we had only eight students, which felt like the right amount of people for a small ice surface. All you can do about this is register and hope that enough students (at least six) sign up so that the class runs, but not so many that you don't get lost in the crowd.
Lessons - ★★★★☆
Each class was a good mix of skating drills and puck-handling drills. Class usually ended with a 10-minute scrimmage, with two teams shooting on empty nets. (Trust me, when you are brand new, hitting an empty net is hard enough.) Eventually, we got into slightly more complicated drills like passing while skating, which is also quite hard for beginners. Our last class was an actual game against a recreational league team, which I thought was a cruel thing to do to noobs. Plus, many of us would have preferred another hour of instruction instead of being tossed to the wolves so soon. But I guess you got to learn sometimes, right? I am not sure if all INTL classes play in a game on their last day. Regardless, you are always on the move in this class, and things are always interesting.
Quality of Instruction - ★★★☆☆
The quality of instruction varied greatly depending on who was teaching the class that day and how engaged he felt. Sometimes, we did pretty cool skating drills that were helpful, and the teacher gave relevant feedback to help you improve. Other times, the coach was "phoning it in," setting up the cones for us to skate around and giving us instructions, but not any useful feedback. One time in particular stands out to me. I made a sloppy play, shot the puck and missed the net. The instructor pointed out my mistake, which was very helpful. However, ten seconds later I made the exact same mistake, but hit the net this time. "Good job," said that day's coach, even though I did exactly what he told me not to do. Also, no hockey instructor came to "coach" us during our last class, which was an actual game against a recreational league team, though he did find a few more players and a goalie to play on our side.
Amenities - ★★★☆☆
While Franklin Park Ice Arena has four locker rooms, they are at the other end of the facility and almost always in use by teams playing on the main rink. So, you will either need to change at the benches near the studio rink or in the lobby. I would put on or take off my base layer in the men's restroom and then change in the lobby, while a female classmate of mine would put on all her gear in the women's restroom. There is a pro shop, but it will probably be closed by the time you arrive for your class, so don't depend on it for any last-minute, before-class purchases like hockey tape or skate laces. The vending machines stock PowerAde at $1.75 for a 20 oz. bottle. The parking lot is pretty big, so finding a place to park won't be an issue.
Etc. - ★★★★☆
Girlfriends/boyfriends/spouses will enjoy warming themselves by the wood-burning stove in the lobby while you learn hockey skills.
Overall - ★★★☆☆
If you overlook the fact that you have to register for USA Hockey, the cost is about the same as hockey lessons at other rinks. You probably won't get to use a locker room, and the ice surface is small, but there's plenty of parking. The quality of instruction varied, but I think my "no-show" coach isn't teaching the class anymore. Either way, the class was still a lot of fun andit was a good beginning of my hockey odyssey. Plus, my classmates were all pretty cool. If you live near Franklin Park, you should check this class out.
You can learn more about Franklin Park's INTL Adult Hockey Clinic here.
Franklin Park Ice Arena is located at 9711 Waveland Avenue Franklin Park, IL 60131 (map).
BONUS: Here are recaps of all seven of my lessons at Franklin Park:
- Lesson #1: The first hockey lesson
- Lesson #2: I am so out of shape!
- Lesson #3: Advice on turns & shooting
- Lesson #4: Keep your head up!
- Lesson #5: Landing on your head is no fun
- Lesson #6: Pass me the puck!
- Lesson #7: Playing my first hockey game
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