While the professional hockey players enjoy a little rest and recovery, some possible future stars hit the ice at the Nashville Predators Youth Hockey School. From beginners to more experienced travel hockey players, youth ages 6-14 descended on Ford Ice Center these last two weeks.
At the annual Youth Hockey School, students receive both on and off ice instruction from the Predators Youth Hockey Development team, local hockey coaches, and some Predators alums, players, and prospects. I was fortunate enough to watch an on-ice session and came away believing—like Whitney Houston—that the children are our future in Smashville.
Some of today’s skaters didn’t look much younger than those at the Preds development camp in June, while others were trying their hand at the sport for the first time. The only experience required to attend is a basic skating ability. There were a few falls (but no flops...looking at you, Esa Lindell), as the kids worked on puck handling, defensive angles, and finished up with lively scrimmages. What these hockey players may lack in stature, they more than make up for in enthusiasm. Even after three days of hockey camp running from 8:30-5:00, there was plenty of hustle and energy on the ice.
Hockey has not always been an easy sport for kids to try. The Predators Youth Development Team are intentional about opening the world of hockey to youth in Middle TN and the southeast.
The Youth Hockey School is just one avenue. Their G.O.A.L program is a four week introduction to hockey for youth ages 4-9. The cost of equipment can often be a hurdle to giving hockey a shot, and the G.O.A.L. program is a great way to introduce youth to the sport without requiring a huge financial commitment up front.
The Nashville Predators Amateur Hockey Association (NPAHA) offers recreational youth hockey leagues throughout the year for both boys and girls in Antioch and Bellevue. These NPAHA hockey seasons are shorter, so that youth who play another sport can find a season to try hockey.
After watching our home-grown Ben Schultheis shine at the Predators’ development camp, it is encouraging to see the ways Smashville is growing youth hockey in Middle Tennessee. There’s a chance I saw the next Pekka Rinne or Viktor Arvidsson at Ford Ice Center today (and a decent chance that the next Arvy is a tiny dark-haired girl who has some serious hustle...).