Hard to believe with the cool spring we have had but hockey registration is just a couple short months away. This year, help families in your association switch gears from sunglasses and swimming trunks to sticks and skates by hosting a season kickoff event.
An “Ice Breaker” event held in August or September can be a great way to invite players and parents back for the upcoming season. By hosting an on-site registration in conjunction with a fun event, your association can provide its new and returning members the opportunity to showcase its benefits and registration to the local community.
“A great Fall Ice Breaker that District 5 used was having a Fun Day,” said Doug Foster, a member of Minnesota Hockey’s Recruiting and Retention Committee, on how successful hockey events don’t necessarily need to be on the ice. “Have your association set up a handful of events such as relays, face painting, t-shirt painting and have your players invite friends to participate.”
In contrast with emails and online registration, a season kick-off event gives everyone a personal reminder of what hockey is all about: FUN! It also encourages interaction between board members and parents, which is particularly helpful in player retention and acquisition.
Here are a few ideas that other associations have used successfully:
Roller Rink Night – Bring back the roller rink days by hosting an open skating night at the rink before the ice is put in. Add music, games on and off the skating area, and prizes to give the kids an evening of skating and pure entertainment.
5K Run or Walk – 5K’s have grown significantly in popularity as people look for ways to stay fit while enjoying the summer weather. Organize a family oriented 5K run/walk that starts or ends at the rink. Even better, use the proceeds as a fundraiser or benefit for an association member in need.
Orientation Night – For first time parents, especially those that never played hockey themselves, getting involved with youth hockey can be intimidating. Inviting all of them to the rink for a no pressure orientation night that explains topics like equipment, fundraising and the importance of volunteering can provide them with an extra boost of confidence and excitement heading into the season.
Field Trip – Some associations struggle getting flyers into schools. Rather than going to the students, try bringing the students to the rink for a field trip. Involving high school players and including an education piece can help gain the school’s support and add to the kids’ interest in hockey.
Pizza Party – Lacking the resources to put on a major event? Put together a pizza party for one level or even one team. Getting the group back together for a simple outing can be effective in generating enthusiasm and improving retention too.
“Also, you can use an ice cream social or a water fun day of running through sprinklers and water balloon fights,” said Foster, who is the USA Hockey Girls’/Women’s Section Rep for the Minnesota District.
Regardless of the type of event you choose to host, the key is to create a welcoming and fun atmosphere that gets everyone excited about playing hockey again.