Data from the Cheese Reporter and USA Hockey indicates that production of both cheese and hockey players is rising in Wisconsin. The former is attributable to overwhelming demand for Wisconsin’s delicious dairy; the latter is attributable, in part, to the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association’s appetite for a signature USA Hockey event that happens each November and February – Try Hockey For Free Day.
A record-setting 499 sites are scheduled to host THFF in 49 states this Saturday. Sixty-three of those will be in America’s Dairyland, ranking Wisconsin’s THFF efforts at the same lofty status as its cheese production – No. 1 in the nation. Arriving there was no accident.
“The conversation started three or four years ago,” said Jeremy Gesicki, a WAHA vice president. “Wisconsin has produced elite hockey players, but if we want to produce more elite hockey players, we need more hockey players in Wisconsin. We needed to do more to develop the base. So we devoted ourselves to growing youth hockey and emphasizing player development at all levels, not just the top, and Try Hockey For Free fit perfectly with those plans.”
According to Gesicki, the turn-key nature of THFF helps make it great, especially in associations that lack a large roster of helping hands.
“The volunteer resource can be a big challenge,” he said. “But Try Hockey For Free comes with a ready-made tool kit and USA Hockey does the heavy lifting with promotion, which makes it easy on volunteers.”
Gesicki, who is also a USA Hockey-certified Level 5 coach in Sauk Prairie, hears a steady stream of success stories from host associations and rinks throughout Wisconsin.
“So many different associations, large and small, speak to how impactful it’s been and how many new families have come to their programs as a result of Try Hockey For Free,” he said. “It definitely makes it easier to bring new kids and new families to hockey.”
Of all the success stories, however, it’s a THFF visual that serves as the best testament to the initiative’s value.
“I’ve watched parents beam with smiles as their child learns a new skill,” said Gesicki. “And that’s been absolutely fabulous.”
NOTES: Parents and guardians can find the Try Hockey location closest to them and register children between the ages of 4 and 9 years old to participate by visiting TryHockeyForFree.com … Entering its seventh season, USA Hockey's national Try Hockey For Free Days have introduced more than 115,000 children to the sport ... Try Hockey For Free Day is part of Come Play Hockey Month, a component of the NHL's Hockey is for Everyone program, which provides children of all backgrounds the opportunity to play hockey. The nation's hockey community and United States-based NHL clubs, players, alumni and fans will support Come Play Hockey Month with a full slate of activities, including the NHL Sled Classic, which will be held Nov. 17-20 at the Nashville Predators' Ford Ice Center in Antioch, Tennessee ... Join the conversation and post your photos and videos on social media using the hashtag #TryHockey