By Ashley Luthern
Third-graders Lucas Shaffer and Will Blumel passed a hockey puck back and forth Wednesday, occasionally chasing down one hit a little too hard or too wide, as their “coach” looked on.
“Good job,” said Chris Bradley, a defenseman for the Youngstown Phantom hockey team.
Bradley joined his teammates Todd Koritzinsky and Phantoms newcomer Jonathan Liau at Dobbins Elementary School to teach students hockey basics.
Several other players came to Dobbins Monday and Tuesday, too, as part of the team’s “Hockey for Health” program, said Ashley Brindle, the Phantoms’ director of game-day operations.
“The main purpose is to teach kids the fundamentals, and then we give them tickets to a Phantoms game and the Ice Zone. The players talk about healthy eating and the importance of school,” Brindle said.
Students were separated into three groups in the school gym and rotated among stations to practice shooting, passing and puck handling.
In addition to hockey, players also read “Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet” to students in kindergarten, first and second grades.
Will said he liked the lessons.
“It’s fun and we took a field trip to a game” earlier this month, he said.
Third-grader Erin Morell said she’s never played hockey before, but Wednesday’s lesson was “really fun.”
“I’m really surprised they would come here. I’ve never met any players before and they’re really nice,” she said.
Liau, a forward who joined the Phantoms in February, supervised the puck-handling station. It was his first time taking part in “Hockey for Health.”
“It’s fun. I like working with kids. You’ve got to get them excited, and it can be exhausting,” Liau said.
Brindle said the Phantoms have visited more than 30 schools this season and travel to Holy Family School and Summit Academy next.