July 30, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
A popular kids program in Queens that aims to develop the next generation of hockey players returns to Long Island City in August—and spaces are filling up fast.
The program, called Learn to Play, provides affordable hockey lessons and equipment to kids aged 5 through 8 to encourage them to take up the sport.
The lessons are being offered to both boys and girls and take place at LIC-ICE, a specialized indoor ice skating facility located at 10-12 46th Rd.
Now in its fifth year, Learn to Play aims to reduce some of the obstacles associated with accessing the sport that includes high equipment costs and ice time.
The New York Islanders organize the program as part of a national initiative where the NHL and NHL Players’ Association team up with clubs to teach children how to play hockey.
A maximum number of 12 children per session will receive coaching from New York Islanders-affiliated coaches with drop-in sessions featuring former Islanders players Arron Asham and Radek Martínek. There will be three coaches at each session, organizers said.
Organizers are now accepting player applications for a summer course and a separate fall/winter course.
The summer courses will run twice a week — from Aug. 2 through Aug. 26 — at a cost of $250 per participant.
The fall/winter sessions will take place once a week — from Sept. 7 through Dec. 23 — at a cost of $470 per participant.
Registered kids will be provided with “head-to-toe” equipment including an ice hockey stick and helmet, skates, pads, gloves, a jersey as well as an equipment bag and more. The children who participate in the lessons will get to keep the equipment that typically costs around $450.
There are less than 10 spaces available for the summer course and around 25 places remaining for the fall/winter course, organizers said.
Lucia Grosek, who manages LIC-ICE, said the initiative educates kids about hockey and helps identify some of the untapped talent the city has to offer.
“It is a good introduction to the sport and kids get a full exercise,” Grosek said, adding that the majority of graduates have continued their hockey development after completing the course.
Grosek said there has been a steady increase in the number of kids from Queens signing up for the course in recent years while many also travel from across the Tri-State area.
“We welcome children from all areas and LIC-ICE is easily accessible via public transport,” Grosek said, noting that the location is served by the Court Square and Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue subway stations.
Around 600 kids in total took part in the course at LIC-ICE in 2019 but organizers had to cut the number in half last year due to COVID-related restrictions, Grosek said.
“The demand has been huge. It’s a product that’s extremely popular and we are thrilled to have it.”
Registration and more information on Learn to Play can be found at the following link: https://learntoplay.nhl.com/islanders.
Advanced registration is required for the program, with early enrollment encouraged because of the high demand and shrinking availability.
Readers can learn more about LIC-ICE and its facilities here: http://www.licice.com