Friday, September 25, 2009

Adult hockey even better than Fight Club -- too bad no one knows about it

I received word yesterday that the Wednesday night adult clinics at the Valley Ice Center in Panorama City were being canceled because too few people where showing up.

That's a shame. The world, in my humble view, needs more adult hockey classes -- not less.

I'm heading to Burbank tomorrow morning for one of their adult clinics. I met the coach during a public skate last weekend and he invited me to come out -- also mentioning that attendance recently has been sparse.

In no way am I picking on any particular rink, but I do think there's a larger problem out there in hockey-land: the skating industry is not going a particularly good job of getting more people involved in the sport, at least here in Southern California.

It's peculiar, because in my view the thing missing from the life of many adult men and women is ice hockey. They may not know it's missing yet -- at this time last year I was among the uninformed. But if they had a chance to try to the sport they may soon realize a few hours of fun playing hockey each week goes a long way to erasing a lot of the drudgery and bullshit of everyday life between ice sessions.

I'm not exactly what the cure is, but I have a few ideas. Hockey is kind of like skiing in that the perception among many people is that the barrier to entry is high in terms of cost and equipment. Plus, I'm betting many adults don't realize that most recreational leagues are non-checking and don't tolerate or encourage fighting, as does the NHL.

At present, each rink markets its own hockey programs and information is oftenhard to come by. There is no standard and no one organization charged with figuring out how to grow the sport (or at least keep it from shrinking) in the region.

If there is one group that may have the reach to turn the tide, it may be the L.A. Kings, as they're the hockey club with the most visibility and the team seems to be on the cusp of being pretty good. The Kings, plus the area's minor league teams, could organize beginner adult clinics around the area and then market them at games and through their telecasts.

It would likely be a royal pain and pricey to organize, but I think there are plenty of adults willing to give hockey a try with a little shove and if they knew there were adult beginner programs. I also think a Kings-led program would help rebuild the fan base, as there's no better way to create a fan than to give them a chance to play the game.

--Steve Hymon

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