Skates, a helmet, shoulder pads, shin guards, pants, gloves and sticks are just some of the items on the list required to play youth hockey.
Equipment and ice time make hockey one of the most expensive sports a kid can play. A partnership between El Paso’s hockey team the El Paso Rhinos and the YMCA, however, makes getting on the ice significantly more affordable, saving parents hundreds of dollars.
The YMCA Junior Rhinos program consists of three sessions throughout the year in which boys and girls can learn and practice hockey with the help of volunteer coaches and members of the El Paso Rhinos.
“For the price, you can’t beat it,” said Heather Perry, mother of 11-year-old Reed Perry who has spent four years participating in the program.
According to GoBankingRates.com, playing hockey can cost anywhere from $500-900 a year per child. Each session of the Junior Rhinos program, which consists of 16 practices, has a registration fee of $80 for YMCA members and $100 for non-members. Equipment is provided to any child who needs it, with a $100 deposit.
The low cost is not the only aspect that parents have found appealing. The involvement of the Rhinos makes the process easy for parents and children who are barely getting familiar with the sport.
“The Rhinos are here and they size you, they put it on you, they make sure (everything fits),” Perry said. “I wouldn’t even have to know how to do it for my son. They put everything on.”
The program seeks to increase the popularity of hockey in the borderland and capitalize on the success the Rhinos and the recently created UTEP club team have enjoyed. Kids are divided into two groups based on age – 8 and under and 9 and above – with each group getting approximately an hour on the ice per session.
“This program is really designed to just keep having fun with hockey,” said Brent Harty, a volunteer coach with two sons in the program. “We just come out and teach what we know. … We have fun and we try to get them familiar with skates and hockey.”
Logan Wilson, 11, became interested in hockey because of his cousin who plays for the Rhinos. Wilson not only got to learn how to skate through this program, he gets to skate alongside the Rhino players who helped spark his interest.
“I think it’s really good for the people that are starting to play hockey,” Wilson said. “It’s really cool that we get to learn from them (the Rhinos).”
Wilson’s mother Debbie thinks the program is great and hopes more kids get involved. She also said it is perfect for kids with no prior experience in hockey or ice skating.
“None of our kids knew how to ice skate when they started,” Wilson said. “You don’t have to have skating ability to come out and try it. … They say it’s better to learn how to skate for hockey because if you fall you have all the pads on.”
The first session started in September, the second in January and the third is scheduled to start on April 6. Practice is Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons. In addition, they offer power skating and hockey skills single classes on Tuesdays for an additional fee.
Soccer, basketball, baseball and football may be the most popular sports around the borderland, but the YMCA, El Paso Rhinos and the Junior Rhinos program are giving kids another alternative while looking out for their parents’ wallets.
“It’s fun,” Reed Perry said. “I really enjoy coming out here and getting to skate a little bit.”