Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Thrice the Ice: A New Ice Rink Program Called Cross-Ice Allows Kids More Play with the Puck

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Thrice the Ice: A New Ice Rink Program Called Cross-Ice Allows Kids More Play with the Puck

Article excerpt

Across the nation a revolutionary grass-roots program is slowly turning hockey traditionalists into cross-ice converts. From the association level to public park and recreation programs, the concept of cross-ice hockey has been making strides in membership and participation each year.

The cross-ice program was developed in 2000 by USA Hockey's Youth Council and was designed to bring about a fundamental change in the way in which youth programs and their coaches introduce players 10 years old-and-under to hockey.

The concept of cross-ice hockey is surprisingly simple. The ice surface is cut into thirds using rink dividers, giving more beginning players an opportunity to play the game on a sheet of ice better suited to their size.

In addition to cutting down the size of the ice, teams scrimmage four-on-four (or sometimes three-on-three in some park and recreation programs) without a goalie. There is no scoreboard, icing or offsides. Penalties are only assessed for deliberate acts to injure, but the team does not play shorthanded. By putting kids in a noncompetitive environment, it allows them to focus on their skills without an overemphasis on winning.

Special nets, approximately one-third the size of regulation goals, and light-weight pucks are also used to make the game more enjoyable for the younger player.

Jim Koppleman is a volunteer hockey parent and cross-ice advocate who helps organize a park and recreation cross-ice program for children in grades one through five in Merrill, Wisc. The second-year program, which is co-operated by the Merrill Parks and Recreation Department and Merrill Youth Hockey, has already experienced its share of success.

"The response we received in the program's first year was really positive" says Koppleman. "I was a little surprised that some of the kids preferred to play three-on-three cross-ice hockey. They got their hands on the puck more and I think they had a lot of fun."

The cross-ice program helps young players improve their puck handling and playmaking skills because there are more opportunities to touch the puck, and encourages them to make quicker decisions because they're playing in a smaller space.

In addition to preaching skill development, the idea is to get away from the "win at all cost" attitude and let the kids have fun and be creative. That focus is the main reason cross-ice hockey has worked so well in park and recreation programs across the country. …

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