“The reception has been phenomenal as we exceeded our goal of 40 spots for the program, which had previously offered a capacity of five through the city,” said Mites coach Kerry Shea, who is helping lead the program.
Shea said the idea is actually a partnership between the city’s Parks and Community Services program and the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association.
City staff said about 30 of the children in the programs are also part of the after-school ASSET programs offered by the city. The ASSET program transports the young athletes, provides snacks and supervision for the price of the after-school program. The cost of the hockey program is free to ASSET students and those who registered before classes began last week.
The Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association, whose mission is to promote and support youth hockey in Steamboat, provides up to 20 volunteer coaches to help lead the programs, which are open to boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 11. The introductory hockey programs, which meet at 4 p.m. Mondays, have been well received and have exceeded all expectations, Shea said.
According to Shea, there are more than 52 children participating in the programs this fall. The skaters are grouped by age and then moved through a series of stations designed to introduce a variety of hockey stills.
“We were able to combine our respective strengths to achieve a whole new level for this introductory program and in the process increased the access for the youth in our community,” Shea said.
Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey director Corey Allen said his organization recognizes the importance of getting young players into the game.
“The strength of an association is based on the flow of players — most importantly the flow of players at the introductory and Mite levels,” Allen said.
“Over time those are going to be your Midgets and your higher level players,” Allen explained. “We wanted to make sure that our community is offering a strong introduction to hockey. We know it is so important, and I’m very fortunate to have this team of volunteers that I have, because without this group, there is no way I could handle 50 players.”