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Viewpoint: City's girls, boys encouraged to try hockey

As a parent, I know the many benefits of keeping my kids involved in team sports -- they build friendships, learn the ins and outs of teamwork, leadership and discipline, all-the-while mastering the skills of the game they are playing.

Sports also provide a constructive means of channeling kids' energy.

Hockey presents additional advantages because players need to have good relationships with each other to play effectively on the ice -- being selfish can lose the game.

There are only a handful of players on the ice at any given time, so each skater plays a very active and important role.

In essence, hockey is chock full of life lessons -- those little nuggets that can be utilized and called upon as our kids grow up and face the rest of their lives.

Hockey also offers many health benefits. Drills, scrimmages and games provide aerobic as well as anaerobic training. Playing hockey also tones and strengthens every major muscle group.

As a recreational sport, ice hockey is something children can carry into their adult lives.

While hockey is a sport of great tradition in Minnesota, girls' hockey is a fairly recent entrant. It was 1993 when the NCAA first recognized the game. But we sure have come a long way.

Last year, the University of Minnesota women's hockey team celebrated its 10th year as a varsity sport.

Girls' hockey in Woodbury is growing. Last year, we had 124 girls donning breezers, jerseys and skates. This year, we will have seven teams -- two U8, two U10, two U12 and one U14.

The addition of East Ridge High School creates more opportunity for girls to play hockey at the high school level.

In talking with parents of girls in the program, they stated that they like to keep their girls involved in team sports because it is a great experience to meet new friends and the girls can build life skills.

They like their girls to play team sports, period and hockey is fun and fast-paced.

A great thing about girls today versus 20-30 years ago is that girls can play hockey and still be a girl. You'll find plenty of pink jerseys, pink sticks, pink tape, pink laces, pink jackets and pink sweaters.

If your child is interested in finding his or her inner hockey competitor, the Woodbury Area Hockey Club (WAHC) is accepting registration through Aug. 31 for the regular season. We'd like to encourage boys and girls of all ages to come out and try hockey.

WAHC has a number of ways for kids to get involved in hockey.

Termites is an Introduction to Hockey program for first year skaters, ages three to eight. They need to know how to skate forward to participate.

The program works on basic skating skills, including ready position, forward skating, stopping and having fun.

They also spend time working on skating with a stick and a puck.

The Termite season has two sessions with the first session beginning in September and running through early October, and the second session in March. The sessions will consist of 12 one-hour ice times, two times a week.

In addition to Termites this year, we have started two new programs to encourage more girls try to hockey. These events are open to girls ages three-14 and no previous experience is necessary at any age.

n "Girls Try Hockey" event, Sept. 7 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Bielenberg Ice Arena (no charge). All equipment will be provided and players/parents will be there to answer any questions.

n "A Girls Intro to Hockey" starts Sept. 20 and is 12 sessions for six weekends (excluding MEA weekend). Program cost will be $88.

Equipment bags are available for a $100 deposit.

Visit the WAHC website, http://woodburyhockey.com, for more information or contact Heather Young at woodburyhockey@comcast.net or (651) 402-1400.

Fun facts:

• 35,324 boys and 8,361 girls registered to play youth hockey in Minnesota last season

• About 6,200 boys and 3,900 girls play high school hockey

• About 250 Minnesota boys and 95 Minnesota girls play D1 college hockey

• There were 20 Minnesota-born players in the NHL in 2006

• The first professional women's team in Minnesota began in 2007

Source: Minnesota Hockey website

Stuckert is president of the Woodbury Area Hockey Club.

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