On Jan. 4, area children joined the Youngstown Phantoms at the Ice Zone in Boardman for an afternoon of skating, getting the opportunity to meet and greet with Phantoms players in the process.
The session served as an introductory event for the Phantoms’ free Learn to Skate program, which will commence with two separate five-week programs. The first session began Jan. 7 and ran from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
“Everyone had smiles, whether it be the little kids or our kids,” said Phantoms assistant coach Brad Patterson of the Jan. 4 event. “I think that’s the biggest thing that sport teaches you-somebody gave their time to teach you at some point, and our guys are doing the same with youngsters and building hockey in the area. It was great to see.”
In total, 74 area children participated in the Jan. 4 session, receiving basic instruction on skating fundamentals from Phantoms players. As the afternoon progressed, mini hockey sticks were brought out, allowing some children to pass and shoot around with the Phantoms.
While the laughs and smiles from the children were evident, Phantoms players appreciated the opportunity to get on the ice with the children, as well. Many recalled similar events that sparked their hockey careers when they were young.
“It was great to see all the little kids on the ice, because I started that way once,” said defenseman Tommy Parran. “The high school team from my area came out and did a little clinic when I was playing Mighty Mites, and that’s how I really got interested in it. I looked up to those guys, so hopefully, we inspired some hockey players today.”
“I thought it was really fun to come out with the kids,” said forward Alfred Larsson. “When I was younger, I always looked up to players who came down to skate with us. Being here for the new kids and to help them get a new interest in hockey, I think it’s great.”
As a recent acquisition by the Phantoms, forward Alex Rauter is relatively new to the Mahoning Valley, but that did not stop him from understanding the potential impact he and his teammates had on the community this afternoon.
“It was really a great time to see those little kids,” said Rauter. “It brought me back to my days when I was learning how to skate. Hopefully, we inspired some kids to pick up hockey here in Youngstown.”
In the end, the enthusiasm from the Phantoms on this afternoon created memories for the children that will last a lifetime.
“[The team] was talking about when they first learned how to skate, and who taught them,” said Patterson. “We talked about that before we hit the ice today. Seeing our guys take a parenting, almost, role on the ice was pretty special, and I think the parents and the kids appreciated it.”
The the second five-week Learn to Skate program will run from Feb. 25 through March 25. For more information, and to sign up for one of the free sessions, contact the Ice Zone at 330-965-1423.
Single game tickets are also on sale now for all Phantoms’ home games at the Covelli Centre. Phantoms 10-Game Flex Plans are available starting at $89. Call 330-747-PUCK (7825) for more information or to reserve seats today.
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