Seven steps for the beginning hockey player

Seven steps for the beginning hockey player
Just because you'll never be as good as Patrick Kane doesn't mean you shouldn't start playing. (Photo by Seth Anderson / Flickr & Creative Commons)

The Chicago Blackhawks won their second Stanley Cup Championship in four years. Many fans who have never played before are probably feeling a little inspired and thinking: hey, hockey looks like a lot of fun. I’d love to give it a shot!

That’s great! Being a fan is fine and all, and taking the next step to become an active participant in the sport you enjoy brings your appreciation to the next level.

Hockey is arguably the hardest sport to learn.  But you can learn. There are many clinics held year-round that teach adults how to play hockey. You don’t have to wait until the fall to start learning.

There are also many beginner hockey leagues for us noobs — so you won’t be up against guys who have been playing for years.

And while hockey equipment can be pricey, you can get good deals if you shop around a bit and are not in a rush. (More on that later this week.)

With some planning and practice, you can probably play in a beginner hockey league in just a few months.

Below are Sal’s Seven Steps for the Beginning Hockey Player:

1. Try ice skating. If you’ve never skated before, check out this short article. While I can go on and on about how great skating is, you might hate it. And if that’s the case, don’t feel bad. You can still join a floor hockey league through Sports Monster or Chicago Sports and Social. But if you liked skating…

2. Buy hockey skates. The sooner you get your own skates, the sooner they will break in and feel comfortable.

3. Practice your skating. Go to as many public skates as possible. Even if you are OK at skating like me, try to work in as much ice time as you can. The more you skate, the more natural skating feels. Check the Resources page for a list of Chicago-area ice rinks that offer public skating.

4. Purchase a hockey stick (or two), a helmet and the rest of your protective gear. Over the next few days, I’ll give advice on shopping for gear. Again, check the Resources page for a list of hockey pro shops and general sporting good stores located in Chicago and the nearby suburbs.

5. Sign up for hockey lessons. Hockey lessons for adults are great — you are in a class with other people who are just like you. They love hockey and are new to playing. No one judges anyone; we are all in the same boat, er, rink. And maybe you’ll end up playing with some of them in the future. Johnny’s Ice House in Chicago, Franklin Park Ice Arena, the Skatium in Skokie and IceLand in Niles all offer classes for adults, starting at various dates. I’ll add links to more programs to the Resources page as I find out about them.

6. Go to “Stick & Puck” sessions to work on your skills. Stick & Puck sessions — sometimes called “Helmet & Stick” — are like public skates for hockey players. They usually last an hour and allow you to work on shooting, passing and skating. You are required to provide your own helmet, gloves, skates and stick. Sometimes, you need to bring your own pucks, too. You can find a list of rinks offering Stick & Puck sessions here.

7. Start looking for a league to join. Start inquiring rinks near your home if they will have a “beginner” or an “Original Six” hockey league for adults starting this fall or winter. I would suggest that you DO NOT join what is called a “recreational” league unless you know for a fact that it is for beginners; a recreational league does not necessarily mean that it is a beginner league.

I’m not promising overnight results. Hockey isn’t easy, but it is a lot of fun. But with some diligence, you can start playing soon.

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