Started back in 1980, the then National Novice Hockey League, or NNHL, took a group of adults who had never really skated before, and started the very first school for the adult beginner.
Fast forward 40 years, and you’ve got Hockey North America – the hockey league that has taught tens of thousands of people to play hockey and to this day, continues to innovate
1980 Team USA Hero Mike Eruzione Leads a Detroit Class in 2000.
features and service in the adult hockey market that are now the most widely copied concepts in arena & league management today.
But back then, ice hockey was far from popular. Fighting was commonplace, as was brutal body checking. And Heaven help you if you were an adult that wanted to learn to play – in a way, taking the ice for the first time against accomplished adults redefined the “school of hard knocks.” Forget that.
What we found as the keys to success were:
1.Provide a learning environment for the adult player and never criticize the student that mustered the courage to finally come out and play. In HNA you can never be too inexperienced.
2.Keep the playing environment a safe one, understanding that there’s a huge difference in paying to play
– and being paid to play.
We might be crushing a few dreams, but to date no one in 40 years of HNA hockey has ever “turned pro” at any level of competitive hockey. So we’ll take away the mystery now. Don’t make any plans on quitting your job to go play hockey for a living.
3.Make it fun and make it interesting. Otherwise, what’s the point? This is your hobby, your recreation and your distraction from everyday life. It’s our job to have you thinking about the game, tempting you with cool hockey vacations, dressing you up in pro style uniforms, and dangling in front of you the ultimate carrot – a Championship weekend against the other HNA cities.
4.And finally, manage the program professionally. We’ve played in way too many leagues where the guy running the program skated all the best times, had all the best players, and won the league every year (we LOVE people like that, makes our job so much easier).
Instead, our focus isn’t winning a hockey game, it’s more about creating an environment where no one knows ahead of time who’s going to win. To us, the program operators, not knowing who's going to win and watching as the season plays itself out is what makes the league so much fun, but also interesting and challenging to continue to provide that type of playing environment season after season.
Signing Up for The HNA Beginner Program
So you’re ready to sign up and learn to play the great sport of ice hockey. Now What?
The first thing is to understand is that hockey is not a cheap sport, and getting less so every year. But especially your very first year, since you’re buying all new gear and learning to skate, you need to make sure that you know that you’ll be spending some money (don’t worry, the stuff you’re getting will last a very long time as long as you take care of it). Once you get started and stay on the same team, it’s just league fees.
Second, is to give the HNA League Office a call at 800-4-HOCKEY to sign up to play. A small $25 deposit holds a roster spot for you for the next school session.
Third, start looking around for equipment to buy. Hockey equipment is just like anything else. You can spend a lot of money if you want to, but you can also get nice gear without paying top dollar if you know where to look and that you understand what actually constitutes nice gear.
Fourth, start watching hockey from a completely new perspective – you’re a player now. When you watch a game, now you’re looking at exactly where people are positioned, when they shoot and when they pass, understanding the rules, watching what officials call – or don’t call.
The Equipment Checklist is available in the downloads area
Believe it or not, video hockey games are excellent for learning the basics – position, passing, playmaking, rules. You’ll have enough of a challenge learning to skate, so the more you know going into your first session, the easier school will be.
Fifth, watch the HNA web site for information on your program and other interesting information about the League and items specific to beginner hockey.
Sixth, when you get your letter, be sure you attend the organizational meeting for the beginner program. This is probably the most important meeting you’ll attend. You’ll meet your teammates, get your school schedule, find out your team name and colors, meet members of local administration, and have all your questions about hockey and the league answered. We’ll also have you fill out some forms and pay some money as well – it’s all part of becoming a hockey player.
Seventh, take what you learn in the school and practice. Either use inline skates or head out to a public skating session to start building those leg muscles and gaining your balance. Think just standing up on skates is tricky? Soon you’ll be doing full-fledged hockey stops, skating backwards and actually doing more with your stick than just holding yourself up. Part of the process of getting to that point, however, is practicing outside of the hockey school.
And finally, eighth, elect a captain that does more than put the puck in the net. Recreational hockey really isn’t about the bravado of who can score more goals. It’s getting a group of people together as a team, and having them understand each other and stay organized enough to get things done both on, and off, the ice. A good recreational captain is one that is available by phone during the day, has an email address that is checked fairly regularly, and understands the role the captain plays is as a conduit for information between the team and the League. No question a captain needs to be a leader on the ice, but the team is made or broken, off the ice.