February 10, 2009 - North American Hockey League (NAHL) - Mahoning Valley Phantoms
BOARDMAN, OH (Tuesday, February 10th, 2009) - The first session of the Ice Zone\'s Learn-To-Play hockey series is now underway in Boardman with bigger numbers than ever thanks to some help from Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The big turnout is thanks to Sidney Crosby\'s "Little Penguins Learn to Play" program, which donated 30 full sets of hockey equipment to the Ice Zone\'s Learn-To-Play.
Mahoning Valley Phantoms Director of Youth Hockey Rocky Russo says that the Little Penguins initiative drove interest in the Ice Zone\'s classes through the roof.
"When we announced that the Penguins were giving away free sets of equipment for Learn-To-Play, the first 30 spots in our February session filled up in four days," says Russo. "Since then our numbers have ballooned up to 56, which is an all-time high for us."
Earlier this month, Crosby and the Penguins kicked off the program in conjunction with Reebok Hockey and Dick\'s Sporting Goods. In the program, the Pens donate full sets of hockey equipment to youth programs across Western Pennsylvania and the Valley.
The idea of the program is to lower one of the biggest barriers to entry, the cost of hockey equipment.
Russo says that the sometimes-prohibitive cost of equipment can lead to apprehension on the part of prospective hockey parents.
"A full set of hockey equipment can cost up to seven and eight hundred dollars," says Russo, "and with a cost that high, it can cause some parents to hold off because they\'re afraid they\'ll spend almost a thousand dollars on gear and two weeks later the kids will just stop playing.
"The Little Penguins program helps put those parents at ease and gets these kids out on the ice."
Though the Ice Zone\'s class has already given away all 30 sets of equipment donated by the Penguins, the program is still offering a free pair of skates-at a $60 value-to everyone who signs up.
The class is taught by Mahoning Valley Phantoms coaches and players and coaches from the Phantoms\' youth program. It is still open to new students with a pro-rated fee.
Learn-To-Play is open to ages 4-10 and classes meet every Monday at the Ice Zone from 5:45 PM to 6:45 PM.