Nationwide and locally kids try hockey for free

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© Kids got the chance to try hockey for free Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. © Kids got the chance to try hockey for free Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017.

Hockey organizations across the country, including one local youth team, introduced a new generation of interested players to the game Saturday.

The Rushmore Thunder and USA Hockey hosted “Try Hockey for Free Day” at the Rushmore Thunderdome. Kids ages four to nine stepped onto the ice for the first time during the bi-annual nation-wide event.

Thunder assistants fitted each novice skater with pads, sticks and skates before they took their first steps onto the rink. Thunder players and volunteers skated alongside the younger beginners, not only teaching them the fun and fundamentals of hockey, but also core values they can use on and off the ice.

 “We’re trying to instill, obviously, good sportsmanship, teamwork, team unity,” said Rushmore Hockey Association President Chris Dietrich. “Those kinds of principles, but also older kids giving back to younger kids, sharing the game, being good role models on-the-ice and off-the-ice in our community. We want good citizens and good adults when they grow up, and hockey’s a really nice mechanism or platform to do that."

The Thunder used the practice to find potential recruits for their Rushmore Mites program, but regardless of whether the participants stick with the sport, some participants say they will remember the experience for years to come.

 “The parents will remember their child falling and getting up and being helped by the others,” said Rushmore Mites Coordinator Emily Wheaton. “It just really puts a memory in their bank of what is to come in their sporting career and not only in their sports, but in what they gain in their character.”

Following the event, Black Hills Energy presented a $50,000 check to the Rushmore Hockey Association to help them purchase and maintain a new Zamboni

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