Hayley Scamurra helps a young skater at the Kraken Community Iceplex.
The Kraken Community Iceplex served as homebase for U.S. Women’s National Team during the November leg of the 2022-23 Rivalry Series.
The only rink facility within Seattle city limits and the home of the most recent NHL expansion team, the Seattle Kraken, the Iceplex has become a home for all kinds of ice enthusiasts in the area. It has also served as an introduction to skating for thousands of Seattle-area residents of all ages.
The Learn to Skate programs have given more than 3,000 skaters starting at the age of three the chance to step on the ice for the first time, and have helped build excitement in the area for the NHL’s newest franchise.
For one group of the youngest prospective skaters, the opportunity to get on the ice brings not just skating skills, but also a sense of community, a broadening of horizons, and access to something that might otherwise be out of reach.
Once a week for 32 weeks, the Kraken Community Iceplex welcomes around 50 children ages 3-5 who are learning to skate in a program that came about through a partnership between the Refugee Women's Alliance (ReWA) and One Roof Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Seattle Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena.
U.S. Women's National Team members Jincy Dunne, Rory Guilday and Hayley Scamurra had an opportunity to be on the ice with these skaters when the team was in Seattle.
ReWA is a Seattle-based nonprofit, multi-ethnic organization that provides holistic services in more than 50 languages and dialects to help refugee and immigrant women and families stabilize and thrive. Their goal of inclusion, independence and equal access has been brought onto the ice.
The Kraken did community studies that showed cost and transportation as major barriers to access for many families, so their project includes transportation to and from the rink for students, teachers and parent volunteers from ReWA early childhood centers in Lake City, Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley.
Most of the children and their families do not speak English as their primary language. In fact, census figures show that one out of four Seattle or King County residents was not born in the U.S., and roughly one out of three speak a second language in their household. Much of the instruction in the program relies on gestures, hand gestures and facial expressions.
In addition, in their desire to make skating more accessible, Seattle Kraken Director of Fan Development Kyle Boyd helped to create a Learn to Skate USA guide that is written in five different languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Somali) and features illustrations of kids from various ethnic backgrounds.
Learning to skate is a daunting prospect for anyone who has never been on skates. The anxiety is compounded when the pupils are young children and there is a language barrier. Earning the children’s trust and making the skating lessons a safe space have been crucial to making them a success, said Kraken Skating Director Chad Goodwin.
Goodwin and several coaches from within the Iceplex’s Learn to Skate and Learn to Play hockey programs had a steep learning curve the first year to make sure the kids had an enjoyable, fun experience.
“As much as you try to have a game plan, sometimes you just have to put it aside and change it up on the fly,” Goodwin said. “It’s a little crazy when we first start at the beginning of the year, but after a few weeks, they understand the process and the logistics. We have eight coaches from our Learn to Skate programs and youth hockey coaches are on the ice. We all work well together and have fun with the kids introducing them to skating and hockey.”
Not only does the program hope to create a lifelong love of skating within the children, but it brings about massive opportunities for learning and growth. The skaters are learning resiliency and the importance of getting back up and trying again, alongside emotional, social and motor skills. They improve their balance, coordination and communication skills in a welcoming and nurturing environment tailored to them.
Ten students who participated the first year returned this time to continue in the program, Goodwin said. Those students have taken a leadership role in welcoming new skaters and showing them the process. The program is meant to be a three-year cycle that sees the skaters advance and eventually move on to hockey or figure skating programs at the Iceplex. The cycle consists of three weeks of skating instruction and every fourth week, the coaches introduce hockey by bringing out sticks, pucks and nets.
Kyle Boyd - Seattle Kraken Director of Fan Development
Chad Goodwin - Director, Kraken Skating Academy
One of the best feelings, Goodwin said, is seeing how disappointed some of the kids are when they have to get off the ice at the end of the 45-minute session.
Fostering a love of skating was the basic goal of these sessions and there have been endless instances of children improving, moving up in classes and simply enjoying the beauty of being on the ice.
“We’ve helped a lot of kids just get started on the ice and learn to skate. It’s nice to see kids not just skating, but now they have equipment and are on a team,” Goodwin said. “We have a couple of kids who turned five and have gotten into the NHL Learn to Play program and just to see them really take off from the start that they got and enjoy it is pretty rewarding.”
“I’m excited at where it is and I’m excited to see in another couple of years where the kids we’re teaching now will be.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Skaters from the Refugee Women's Alliance (ReWA) and One Roof Foundation program pose for a group photo with members of the U.S. Women's National Team at the Kraken Community Iceplex.