This past summer, I took the Hockey 101 class at Johnny's Ice House and loved it. Towards the end of the ten-week session, I found myself wanting to be challenged more. Hockey 101 is great for absolute beginners, but at this point I no longer felt like an absolute beginner. Instead of repeating Hockey 101, I upped the ante and enrolled in Hockey 102. This is still a beginner class -- so you won't have to worry about any former high school players showing you up -- but with more challenging drills.
Target Audience: Hockey 102 is the follow-up class to Hockey 101. According to the Johnny's Ice House website, the criteria for being in Hockey 102 is as follows:
Participants should have at least 6 months experience or have graduated Hockey 101 with coach's approval. Participants should be able to complete a quick paced forward lap around the rink with control, be able to stop on at least one side, and have competent backward skating skills.
Even if you meet the necessary skating skills, do not feel compelled to take Hockey 102 until you feel ready. The class focuses less on basic skating and more on puck handling drills and scrimmaging. If you are in Hockey 101 and start finding things a little dull -- or you've taken lessons recently elsewhere -- then you are probably ready for Hockey 102.
Cost - ★★★★★
The average cost for "hockey ice time" is $20 per hour. The 10-week Saturday morning class at Johnny's Ice House costs $225. That comes out to $22.50 per class, which is slightly higher than the average but worth every penny. Also note that you DO NOT have to join USA Hockey to take this class. And keep in mind that, as always, prices are subject to change.
Ice Surface - ★★★★★
Classes are held on a regulation-sized hockey rink. Johnny's Ice House is where the Chicago Blackhawks practice. Sometimes, visiting NHL teams practice there too. So, the ice is very well maintained and cared for. Sure, once in a while it seems a bit rough the day after an intense 'Hawks practice, but that's the exception. The ice is soft, about 25-degrees, so it is easy to dig your skates into for stops and turns. The ice is freshly resurfaced before the start of every Hockey 102 class. Overall, this is a great sheet of ice to learn on, not rock hard ice like some other rinks have.
Class Size - ★★★★☆
Hockey 102 tops out at 30 students. For Hockey 101, this number seems OK because it is slower-paced and we all probably need a little more recovery time in the scrimmage (and thus don't mind playing one shift and then sitting out the next two). But in Hockey 102, we might benefit from a few less students, which would result in a little more room and a bit more attention as the "curriculum" becomes a more complex. And I no longer like sitting out for two shifts in a row during scrimmages. Overall, though, it really isn't that crowded, even with 30 students. Plus, not everyone shows up all the time, especially towards the later weeks of the class.
Lessons - ★★★★★
In Hockey 102, we skip the basic skating drills and go right to puck handling and shooting. Hockey 102 has real goalies in the class -- also beginners -- who will try and stop your shots. This is great, because scoring into an empty net was starting to get way too easy. Examples of the drills done in 102 include skating around cones and taking shots on the goalie, passing cross-ice to a teammate, one-on-one defensive drills and two-on-zero drills against the goalie. The last 20 or 25 minutes are spent scrimmaging. Like Hockey 101, shifts in the scrimmage last one minute, with a buzzer signaling when it's time to make a line change. The addition of goalies here make scrimmages in Hockey 102 feel more like a game. One of the coaches even keeps track of the score.
Quality of Instruction - ★★★★★
The same two great instructors who teach Hockey 101 also teach Hockey 102. Usually, the class is split in half with each coach working with a group. Both coaches are very attentive, super-patient and knowledgeable. You can tell that they enjoy their work, which honestly makes the class much more fun.
Amenities - ★★★★★
Johnny's Ice House has spacious locker rooms, containing "stall-like" lockers with shelves. This makes changing much easier, since you aren't tripping over your classmates (and their stuff) when getting ready. Men are assigned two locker rooms, and women get a locker room too. (At other rinks, women many times have to change in the restroom or some other less-than-ideal room.) On Saturdays, it is easy to find parking on Madison Street, but you can also park in the heated garage at Johnny's Ice House for $2. There is a pro shop that can sharpen your skates ($7) or sell you a roll of tape ($4) before class begins. There are vending machines that sell beverages, including sports drinks, and snacks.
Etc. - ★★★☆☆
As you may recall, the only way to get into the prior class, Hockey 101, is via a lottery. However, if you are currently in Hockey 101, you can enroll in Hockey 102 without having to re-enter the lottery. But if you are not in Hockey 101 and want into Hockey 102, then you will need to enter the Johnny's Ice House lottery (click here to enter their lottery). So, if you are in 101 you can easily get into 102. If you took beginner lessons elsewhere -- or took 101 then went on a hiatus -- then you'll have to enter the lottery.
Overall - ★★★★★
Hockey 102 lessons are great if you have the basic skating skills and are tired of shooting at an open net. You do a lot more puck handling and shooting drills in 102, which is what you need lots of work on if you want to play in a league some day. You might have some classmates with a year or more of experience, but none of the students in the class are overqualified. The instructors enjoy teaching adults, the ice is well-maintained and the price is right. You will learn a lot and have lots of fun, too.
You can find out more about Johnny's Ice House Hockey 102 class here.
Johnny's Ice House West is located at 2550 W. Madison St., Chicago, IL 60612 (map).
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Filed under: Hockey Lessons