CEDAR SPRINGS — James Hodge has loved the sport of hockey since he was 7 years old. Now he’s getting the chance to love the sport through his two sons.
Hodge, of Greenville, has played many levels of hockey during his life, including collegiate. And now that his sons, Zander, 5, and Conner, 4, are old enough to strap on a pair of ice skates, Hodge has introduced them to the sport he loves through a free program called “Try Hockey for FREE,” offered at the Cedar Rock Sports Plex.
“We went through it a month ago. My kids loved it,” Hodge said about the introductory hockey program for children.
The free program will be held at the Sports Plex, 4758 Cornfield Drive, Cedar Springs, at 6 p.m. Saturday. It is recommended for children ages 4 to 9 years old. Equipment is provided.
The program is possible through a collaboration with Rockford High School Rams hockey program, multiple volunteers and Play It Again Sports on Alpine St. in Grand Rapids, which helps provide equipment, according to Casey LaMore, marketing and growth director at the Cedar Rock Sports Plex.
LaMore said the program, along with other ice rink programs like Learn-to-Skate and Learn-to-Play-Hockey, has attracted many people within the West Michigan area, especially those areas that don’t offer any skating or hockey, like Greenville.
“It’s a community event to offer children a chance to play a great sport without any costs associated with it,” LaMore said. “Typically, we get about 50 to 55 people per session for Try Hockey for Free. Last February, we set a national record for the biggest group, which was 72.”
The program is in partnership with Michigan Amateur Hockey Association, USA Hockey and the Detroit Red Wings organization.
Now that Hodge’s sons have gone through the introductory program, he plans to further their interest in hockey by enrolling them in the Learn-to-Skate and Learn-to-Play-Hockey programs, which are six-week and 12-week sessions, respectively.
“They weren’t as good at skating so I plan to go through those programs soon and then, hopefully, I can sign them up for the squirts team next year,” Hodge said.
The Cedar Rock Sports Plex has several levels of hockey programs, from beginning programs up to the junior varsity level.
LaMore said though Learn-to-Skate and Learn-to-Play-Hockey come with registration fees, the Rams hockey program and its affiliates have provided many ways to make the experience of playing hockey affordable for everyone.
“It can be an expensive sport, but we’ve made big strides to make it affordable to everyone, offering scholarships and equipment, for example,” LaMore said. “We’ve got it to a point where it’s attainable for anyone that is interested in getting into hockey.”
Anyone who registers their children in the Try Hockey for FREE program is given a discount for the Learn-to-Skate and Learn-to-Play-Hockey programs and will be provided a registration code that will waive a $40 fee for signing up with USA Hockey, which is required for all participants in the programs (except Try Hockey for FREE).
Learn-to-Skate and Learn-to-Play-Hockey sessions are every Sunday, starting at 1 p.m. LaMore said those interested can sign up anytime and have costs prorated.
LaMore said those interested in getting their children enrolled in the Try Hockey for FREE program can register online at www.ramshockey.org or www.tryhockeyforfree.com, but walk-in registrations are also welcomed.
For more information, call (616) 366-5431 or email Casey LaMore at email@example.com.