They felt it was an idea so good, they made it their own.
Each fall, Osseo-Maple Grove hosts three different “Try Hockey For Free” events on their own. After the idea became an annual happening with USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey, allowing kids of any level to get on the ice for some fun, the Osseo-Maple Grove Hockey Association decided they needed to get more kids on the ice. The easiest way to do that was to host more “Try Hockey For Free” events.
For their consistent effort and initiatives, the Osseo-Maple Grove Hockey Association (OMGHA) is being recognized this season with Total Hockey’s Grow the Game Award.
Hosting those events right before the season starts, OMGHA is able to get any interested kids signed up right away. Once they’re signed up, the association goes a step further, helping subsidize the cost of playing through grants for helping with equipment and a partnership with a local sports store for a $100 voucher to help buy gear – an initiative they started last season.
“I think those couple of things have really helped to grow our numbers,” Jason Bauerly said, who is in charge of recruitment for OMGHA.
And grow they have. Osseo-Maple Gove was already a big hockey town with strong numbers. In the 2011-12 season, they had 356 registered skaters. That number rose to 421 in the 2013-14 season following a few years of Try Hockey For Free events.
“I think it’s helped to bring hockey into one of the premier activities in the city,” Bauerly said. “We have a lot of kids that are playing. In the schools, you’ll see kids with their hockey jackets on all over. It’s really brought a lot of attention to our association.”
Beyond creating their own Try Hockey For Free days, OMGHA has hosted five USA Hockey Try Hockey For Free days in the last three seasons. They have also received the Gear Up Minnesota! equipment grant through Minnesota Hockey on two occasions, 2012 and 2014, to help provide players with the necessary equipment.
Osseo-Maple Grove has also benefitted from its reputation as a leader in long-term athlete development and its commitment to the American Development Model. As a part of their dedication to age-appropriate training, OMGHA has applied for and received two separate grants from Minnesota Hockey for the purchase of cross-ice hard dividers – providing kids at younger ages with a more realistic playing surface that maximizes their enjoyment and development.
For Osseo-Maple Grove, hockey has truly grown into a community-wide activity. From the hundreds of kids that play, to the parents and volunteers who coach or stay involved, hockey is a way of life. Even driving through the neighborhoods, kids are out playing hockey wherever they can.
“We’ve gotten kids that are friends with each other in school or outside of it, and it gives them an activity – having them be a part of a team and building their confidence,” Bauerly said. “It’s about giving them an avenue to be able to participate with their friends and do something that maybe they wouldn’t normally have done if they weren’t aware of the opportunity.”