With a life-long passion for hockey, Caroline Lawrence loves to see young players have a chance to try their hand at the sport.
But sometimes, other activities and commitments can make families reluctant to invest in the gear needed for children to give hockey a try.
Enter Recreation Oak Bay’s Novice Hockey League’s free hockey equipment lend-out program.
The program offers the free use of hockey equipment to participants in any of Recreation Oak Bay’s hockey programs.
After starting slowly about three years ago, about 30 sets of equipment are now available, distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, Lawrence says.
“We like to see the sport of hockey develop, specifically as we are a rec centre, our programs are recreation-focused,” Lawrence says, noting the program is designed to complement rather than compete with minor hockey.
“It’s an opportunity to make hockey more accessible for kids who play other sports.”
The Novice Hockey League serves players age five to 14 in three different categories: Mighty Ducks, for five to eight year olds; Sharks for seven to nine year olds; and Coyotes for nine to 14 year olds.
The two younger levels both typically fill up at around 35 players, with the Coyotes bringing around 20 players.
Play runs from September to March and players who borrow gear can keep it for the duration of the season.
Skill level in the program varies widely, from those trying it for the first time, to those with more skill but who can’t commit to a minor hockey league team.
“If kids can skate from one end of the ice to the other, that’s generally all that’s required,” Lawrence says. “The coaches are really skilled at being able to accommodate all levels.”
The NHL program was created more than three decades ago by Bob Nicholson, a former Recreation Oak Bay staffer who went on to head up Hockey Canada for many years.
“Originally the program that Nicholson created was the first of its kind, to start with the development of hockey,” Lawrence says, noting the program has since become a model for others to follow.
For more information about Recreation Oak Bay’s gear lending program, call the Oak Bay Rec Centre at 250-595-7946.