ROK’s hockey skills program flourishing in second year
La Verendrye School student, Eve Dudgeon, during ROK’s Hockey Skills Program Tuesday afternoon at the BDO Centre in Portage la Prairie.
One hundred local kids, that otherwise would not have been afforded the chance, have now been given the opportunity to learn and play the game of hockey, thanks to the continuing efforts of Recreational Opportunities for Kids (ROK).
ROK’s Hockey Skills Program, which wrapped up it’s second year of operation earlier this week, has now seen 100 local kids come through its doors learning the fundamentals of the sport and life lessons along the way.
“The kids are happy to be out there because they are excited with what they have learned, but they are also sad that this is the last (week of the program),” said Lynne Parker, ROK’s director and the woman behind making the hockey skills program a reality. “They just want to keep going. So we’re really encouraging them to come out when sticks and pucks (a form of open, pick up hockey) is going on at the rink.”
ROK, with the assistance of several partners including Manitoba Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Council, WinnPro Hockey, JumpStart, KidSports and Sport Manitoba each had a hand in bringing the 14-week program to Portage.
Students from La Verendrye School and North Memorial School have been meeting weekly since October at the BDO Centre in Portage to practice their craft. Beginning with the basic skating fundamentals before learning stick handling, shooting and passing drills to use during game play.
“At the very beginning, we had kids that were basically walking on their skates. Now, everybody has developed a full stride and we’re fully playing games. The transformation is just unbelievable,” said Matt Jones, head instructor and owner of Winnipeg-based WinnPro Hockey. “I know from growing up playing hockey, you build so many friendships and make lifelong friends from the game of hockey, so it’s fantastic to sort of give them a skill to take with them the rest of their lives.”
ROK’s Hockey Skills Program is free for students to take part in and even supplies the kids with the necessary equipment to participate. Through the hard work of Parker and tremendous support from within the community, ROK’s hockey program has fast become the highlight of many local students’ school week.
“You get to skate as fast as you want and just be free,” said Eve Dudgeon, a student at La Verendrye School, whose improve backwards skating and stopping have made her a force to be reckoned with out on the ice.
And although the sun has set on this winter’s hockey skills program, if it’s up to Parker, it will only continue to get bigger and better,
“A goal for me, at some point, is to have a youth rec league because there are so many kids that can’t afford the registration for minor hockey and don’t have the means of transportation to get to games out of town or on weekends,” she said. “I don’t know how far off that is, but that’s what I’d like to see come out of all this. Maybe Portage ends up with a rec league for kids.”