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Kids fall for sport at Try Hockey for Free Day in Hagerstown

February 16, 2013|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com

For safety and confidence, he stayed close to the wall.

Still, every so many seconds, he fell on the ice. But after a few painstaking laps, 7-year-old Elijah Britner got his bearings, ventured to the middle of the rink and started trying to hit the puck. Within the hour, he was sold on hockey and his mother, Melissa Britner, stood in line waiting to sign him up at a discounted rate for the remainder of the Learn to Play winter session.

“He made progress, and in just a short time,” she said.

Saturday was Try Hockey for Free Day at the Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex, part of USA Hockey’s Hockey Across America Weekend.

Mike Donahue, hockey director at the complex, said the clinic provides gear and gives children ages 4 to 9 a chance to experience “the great sport of hockey” for the first time. Nearly 40 children participated. Donahue said the complex hosts clinics two or three times a year.

“We hope they learn to love the game and we hope to see some growth in our programs,” he said. “We want to start breeding the next group of hockey players. If one of these kids gets to go to college by playing hockey, that’s great with me.”

Donahue said children who went through complex programs currently play hockey for universities including Salisbury and Millersville.

Coaches glided with hockey sticks extended as little people obscured by hefty helmets and pads clutched the sticks’ opposite ends and willed themselves to stay upright. Still, most, at least occasionally, were laid out flat.

Kelly Landry of Greencastle, Pa., has a son, Tyler Landry, 9, who plays hockey for the Hagerstown Mites, and she took her daughter, Courtney Landry, 4, to the clinic.

“Basically, they are just trying to help the kids stand up and teach them how to get up because they fall a lot,” Kelly Landry said. “And they hit the puck around.”

Courtney, who hit the puck into the goal a couple of times, said while she does not like being cold and falling, she does like playing and scoring.

David and Julie Barr of Clear Spring took their son, Klayton Barr, 8, to a Try Hockey Free Day two years ago and he has been playing since, they said.

“You can be rough in hockey. He’s got three sisters, so he needs something to get rid of all his energy,” David Barr said. “We’ve tried him in three other sports and this is the one he’s stuck with. He lives hockey, breathes hockey.”

Klayton’s 4-year-old sister, Alyssa Lyn Barr, tried the sport Saturday and decided that soccer was more her speed.

Heather Aleshire of Big Pool helped her son, Dillon Albowicz, 6, with the laborious dressing process before he hit the ice. Though she has four boys, Dillon is the only one thus far to commit to hockey. He has enrolled in multiple Learn to Play sessions, but still enjoys the atmosphere of Try Hockey for Free Day.

“It’s not all kinds of drills and stuff. They just go out and play,” Aleshire said.

Luci Mills of Hagerstown took her son, Mason Seward, 8, to the clinic and then signed him up for a Learn to Play session. Mason said he heard about hockey from a friend and decided to “give it a whirl.” Mills took him skating for the first time two weeks ago and noticed that he took easily to the ice and “likes to go fast.”

“He’s been in other activities like baseball and he gets really bored just standing there. This a lot more active,” Mills said. “Now, I’ll need to get some gear of my own — long johns.”

Also part of Hockey Across America Weekend was the first Hagerstown HoneyBadgers Crush Cancer Classic. Adult teams played exhibition games to benefit breast cancer charities.

The HoneyBadgers topped the Hub City Warthogs, 7-2, on Friday night. On Saturday morning, the Warthogs fell again to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue’s Lucky Hooligans, 7-3.

The Hooligans defeated the HoneyBadgers 3-1 on Saturday night. The two teams are set to square off again Sunday in the championship game at 11 a.m.

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