Review: Johnny's Ice House Hockey 101 class ★★★★★

Review: Johnny's Ice House Hockey 101 class ★★★★★

This summer, I took the Hockey 101 lessons at Johnny's Ice House, a hockey rink located in Chicago. The class was more fun than a Patrick Kane hat trick, and I learned a lot.  But most importantly, this class was intended for absolute beginners, so I fit right in. Here is my review of the 10-week class.

Target Audience: Hockey 101 lessons at Johnny's Ice House are for honest-to-goodness beginners. There were some guys who had never even skated before taking their first hockey lesson at Johnny's. A lot of people fell down, but no one laughed, rolled their eyes or made any judgements. Other students in the class knew how to skate a bit, but never touched a hockey stick until now. This is the best class if you know absolutely nothing about playing hockey and are eager to learn.

Cost - ★★★★★
Ice time for hockey is roughly $20 per hour. The 10-week Saturday morning class at Johnny's Ice House over the summer cost $205. That averages to $20.50 per class. Since then, they have increased the price to $225 for 10 lessons, which averages to $22.50 per class. Still worth every penny. Also note that you DO NOT have to join USA Hockey to take classes at Johnny's Ice House.

Ice Surface - ★★★★★
Classes are held on a regulation-sized hockey rink. Johnny's Ice House is actually the practice home of the Chicago Blackhawks, meaning my ice skates touch the same ice graced by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa.  Thus, the ice is very well cared for. It is softer ice, easy to dig into for stops and turns. Once in a while, the ice will be pretty roughed up from an intense Blackhawks practice the day before. But how cool is it to say you practice hockey where the Blackahwks practice too?

Class Size - ★★★★★
jump_the_boardsThere were nearly 30 students in my Hockey 101 class over the summer, but not everyone attended every class. By the end we had maybe 20 or so students who would regularly attend. In the current session of 101, there seems to be around 20 students. Regardless, the class never really feels crowded because it is on a regulation rink.

Lessons - ★★★★★
Each class was a mix of basic skating drills, basic puck-handling drills and scrimmaging. However, we did not scrimmage the first two weeks. The skating drills are great for new skaters, but will get a bit dull if you can do certain things, like glide on one foot or stop quickly. The puck drills are basic fare, like moving around cones or passing while skating. These are an absolute joy to do with other beginners. Things never move too fast, and that is okay. The scrimmage at the end of class usually lasts 10 or 15 minutes, with teams changing lines at 1-minute intervals. Both sides shoot at empty nets, but even those are hard to hit if you are just starting to learn.

Quality of Instruction - ★★★★★
JIH_101_instructionThere are two coaches who work with the students. Classes are usually split into half, with each group working with a coach. During the first few weeks, one coach will work with the students who cannot skate, while the other coach teaches the rest of the class. No one is ever forced or shamed into doing any drills they do not feel ready for. I even saw a coach sit with a player after taking a fall, then work one-on-one with that player to get his confidence back up. The coaches are friendly, extremely patient, knowledgeable and will help you with any question you have.

Amenities - ★★★★★
Johnny's Ice House has really awesome locker rooms. Each student uses a "stall" with a bench and shelves, making changing in and out of your gear much easier than other rinks, where floor space and personal space in locker rooms are minimal. Men are assigned two locker rooms, and women get their own locker room too. On Saturdays, street parking is ample, but you can also park in the facility's heated garage for $2. Johnny's Ice House has a pro shop that can sharpen your skates ($7) and sell you basics like hockey tape and skate laces, but it does not open until after the 9 a.m. class has started. There are vending machines that sell beverages, including sports drinks.

Etc. - ★☆☆☆☆
So far, everything sounds perfect. The instructors are great, the ice is great, lessons are fun, parking is easy and the locker rooms are (relatively) posh. So, what's the rub? The only way to get into Hockey 101 is via a lottery (click here to enter their lottery). There is only one Hockey 101 class, which runs for 10 weeks at a time. New students are only admitted if current students move onto Hockey 102 or otherwise leave the class. Even though you may be ready and willing to join, you might not get in. In fact, you probably won't -- but you should try anyway.  Your best bet is to enter the lottery every 10 weeks and keep your fingers crossed.

Overall - ★★★★★
Hockey 101 lessons are well worth the price of admission. The two instructors truly enjoy teaching adults how to play hockey, and it is fun to learn the game with other absolute beginners. The ice and facility are well-maintained at Johnny's Ice House. Hockey is their business, and business is good. But you might not get in on your first try. In the meantime, you may want to investigate other beginner hockey lessons, such as at Franklin Park or at the Skatium in Skokie. There's no rule that says you can't learn at more than one rink.

You can find out more about Johnny's Ice House Hockey 101 class here.

Johnny's Ice House West is located at 2550 W. Madison St., Chicago, IL 60612 (map).

Here are recaps of three of my lessons in Hockey 101:

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