All cellys, no chirps: Dozens of Black Hills area kids get the chance try hockey for free


The Rushmore Thunder hosted their fall “Try Hockey for Free” event on Saturday, November 5, 2022. (Darsha Nelson, NewsCenter1)

RAPID CITY, S.D. — On Saturday, youth in the Black Hills donned their ice skates, but didn’t drop their mitts. It was a barn burner at the Rushmore Thunderdome as a couple dozen excited kids got the chance to try hockey for the first time.

USA Hockey sponsors the “Try Hockey Free” events twice a year, and have done so for more than a decade now. The events are a way to get boys and girls aged four to nine interested in the sport. The kids all got free sticks and jerseys just for coming out.

“Hockey is a great sport; it’s a growing sport,” said Ronda Simmons, sponsorship coordinator for the Rushmore Hockey Association. “We’re trying to grow it even bigger here in the Black Hills.”

The Rushmore Thunder had some of their league skaters out to help, alongside players from the Rapid City Rush and the Badlands Sabres. Rush mascot Nugget also took to the ice to support the youngsters on their journey.

Check it out! Local youth take to the ice to get a taste of the hockey lifestyle:

“They’re going to come out and try hockey for their first time. Some of them may have had skates on before, but if they haven’t, this gives them exposure to the game,” Simmons said. “It’s just a way to get them some exposure to the game in hope that they all in love with it.”

Simmons has three kids of her own that all play. She can’t say for sure what it is that gets kids so addicted to hockey, but thinks maybe it’s the thrill of the speed!


Hockey builds confidence! Hockey helps develop a positive attitude, self-image and self-esteem. There’s nothing like ice to teach kids about standing on their own two feet.

Hockey builds mental agility! Decision-making, strategy, concentration — hockey teaches kids a lot more than how to skate.

Hockey develops social skills! It takes cooperation, teamwork and respect to succeed on and off the ice. Hockey teaches those skills, while also creating new friendships.

Hockey is for everyone! USA Hockey has a place for everyone to play. Hockey players come in all shapes, sizes, colors and creeds.

Hockey teaches persistence! Everyone stumbles on occasion, but hockey players always get back on their feet.

Screening the goalie is better than screen time! Hockey gives children an engaging, fast-paced, healthy alternative to sedentary recreation. Hockey develops unique physical literacy.

CLICK HERE for more youth hockey resources from USA Hockey.


The “Thunderdome,” the home of Rushmore Thunder Hockey, located off Old Folsom Road in Rapid City. (Darsha Nelson, NewsCenter1)

Interested in joining a local youth hockey league? CLICK HERE for more information on the Rushmore Thunder.

“Once you start hockey, it’s a passion that you do not ever get rid of,” Simmons said. “Once it’s in your blood, it just never gets back out.”

Categories: ConnectCenter1-Events, Local News, Rush Hockey, Sports