Five-year-old Elle Beauclaire (left) and her mom Aletia. Photo credit: Beauclaire family.
Being a first-time hockey family can be an intimidating venture, particularly for parents who didn’t play organized hockey themselves as children. There are forms to complete, equipment to buy and new schedules to juggle. There’s volunteering and meetings, games and practices. For parents and young players, what happens on the ice is often the easy part.
Don and Aletia Beauclaire dipped their toes in the frozen water of Minnesota hockey this fall, after their five-year-old daughter, Elle, expressed interest in trying the sport. With another daughter, 10-year-old Drew, involved in gymnastics and soccer, they weren’t totally unprepared for the concept of youth sports. And Elle had also previously participated in gymnastics. Still, the Maple Grove residents registered their new Mite with Osseo Maple Grove Hockey Association (OMGHA), not knowing exactly what to expect.
What they found was a hockey community welcoming them with open arms. Other parents and neighbors offered words of wisdom and hand-me-down gear. Coaches paid special attention to Elle as she sharpened her skating skills. Hockey retailers went the extra mile to make the family as comfortable as possible.
“’If you need anything, just ask’ has become a recurring theme,” said Don. “Our biggest concerns initially were the cost and logistics of it all, just what we should be doing. And it’s definitely a commitment. But I can’t say enough about how great the association has been. It’s like, ‘welcome to the family.’”
Photo credit: Minnesota Hockey
Of course, as any parent of young children can attest, even the smoothest ice can get a bit chippy at times. “We had our little moments,” Don recalled with a grin. “Getting her to wear the mouth guard – really the whole ‘getting ready’ process – was a struggle at first. And you worry that she won’t feel like she’s as good as some of the older kids and change her mind about playing. But once she’s on the ice, she’s all smiles. She loves it. Her first game is coming up soon. I’m really proud of her.”
While not every family enjoys as smooth a transition into the Minnesota hockey world as the Beauclaire’s, their experience – enriched by that “it takes a village” spirit – is more typical for new hockey moms and dads.
“Hockey in Minnesota really is about tight knit communities coming together around a sport they love, and their kids love,” said Glen Andresen, executive director of Minnesota Hockey. “New hockey parents should take the time to get to know the coaches and volunteers within their association and ask questions if they are confused or have an issue. Our associations want their families to have the best experience possible, and they're there to help.”
Campaigns such as USA Hockey’s Try Hockey for Free also provide a boost, aiming to inspire families to take the leap into the sport with some initial incentive, as financial considerations are certainly part of the decision equation. On Nov. 7, Minnesota Hockey and local associations around the state hosted Try Hockey for Free events, encouraging kids ages 4 to 9 to visit their local rink and try youth hockey at no cost.
Minnesota Hockey also offers a library of informational materials for first-time hockey families on its website, Minnesotahockey.org. Among the helpful features is “The Minnesota Hockey Parent Survival Guide,” written by Todd Smith, which includes a checklist for both veteran and new hockey parents as they begin to navigate the world of youth hockey.