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Oregon Family Magazine

Discover Eugene's Best-Kept Secret in Youth Sports

08/01/2019 11:56 ● By Sandy Kauten
If you’ve been looking into sports for your child, chances are you have checked out the typical go-to choices: soccer, baseball, gymnastics, track, football, etc. These are all excellent options, but did you know ice hockey is also available in our area? If not, you're not alone! Ice hockey is probably one of the least known sports in the region, but it quickly becomes a favorite for those who play.

Concerned your child can't skate, or that they will get hurt? You would be amazed at how quickly children learn to skate. It's mind-boggling! And, contrary to what you see in the NHL, youth hockey is not about the big body hits or fighting (in fact, both are prohibited). Players are protected head to toe in safety equipment, from helmets and face cages, pads and gloves, all the way down to their skates. Every piece of equipment provides unparalleled protection and support to the player.

Youth hockey today is about learning to be a good teammate, on and off the ice, and also about how to be a well-rounded athlete for life. USA Hockey's American Development Model emphasizes playing multiple sports, teaching kids the right skills when they are best able to learn them, and placing kids in environments where they can be successful. This includes playing on size appropriate ice and using smaller nets for younger players, while focusing on skills they are ready to learn. For example, younger players focus on movement fundamentals and developing problem-solving skills through play, while older players work on positioning and strategy.

In the Pacific Northwest, youth hockey is expected to boom once the Seattle NHL expansion team begins playing in the 2021-22 season. When the Vegas Golden Knights started in the 2017-18 season, youth hockey in the Las Vegas area exploded with more than 90 percent growth. And that growth wasn't just for boys; the girls' side of hockey has been growing, too! Locally, Oregon and Washington have seen the number of girls playing hockey steadily climbing, even outpacing the boys.

Lane Amateur Hockey Association (LAHA), now in its 30th year of operation, provides ice hockey programs for children of all skill levels and abilities between the ages of 4 and 18. There are classes for beginners, one-day sessions for kids to try hockey for free, a program for developmentally and physically disabled children, as well as regular-season teams who play locally and across Oregon.

If you would like to explore if ice hockey is right for your child, a great place to start is with an Intro to Hockey class. The next session begins mid-August and free loaner gear is available for new participants. Registration for regular-season teams is also open, with practices starting in September. Information on the different programs, including schedules and costs, are available on the LAHA website: laha.org or call (541) 937-5260.

Joyen Pendowski is the President of the Lane Amateur Hockey Association and a voting member of the Oregon State Hockey Association. She is also the mother of two, and her daughter plays hockey on both coed and female teams. Outside of hockey, Joyen runs her own graphic design and marketing business and volunteers in the community with various organizations.