BANGOR, Maine — Children ages four to ten wake up bright and early to be at the Sawyer Arena in Bangor at 8 a.m. on Saturdays to learn how to skate and play ice hockey.
"I get to watch them all come in, and sometimes they are tired, but once we get on the ice, it's showtime, so everybody comes to life," said coach Casey Harris.
Letting the kids knock the puck around, bump into each other, and have a good time is the main goal. Besides the lifelong friendships made on the ice, the coaches teach them perseverance, teamwork, and having fun on ice!
"It's just about giving kids an opportunity to have that experience," said Harris.
"Hockey is a locker room sport, so it's really about the team, the connections you make with other players," said Harris.
In learning to ice skate and play hockey, the kids explain how they initially fall down, only to get back up and keep trying, which eventually makes them better.
"A lot of new things I'm learning now," said 7-year-old Charlie Crocker.
"We start with learning to skate because skating is the foundation, and then we gradually add the other skills they need to play the game," said Coach Harris.
Serving all age groups and all skill levels, the Maine Junior Black Bears offer kids an 8-week program to learn skating and hockey in continuous sessions all year round.
"The joy is really just to watch the kids get it...and to take off and sort of catch that passion for the game," said Coach Harris.
Certified coaches and student coaches focus on having fun learning the basic skills of hockey and working with those children that need additional skating skills.
"Being able to handle the puck, keep your head up while you are skating, and there's other people moving around," said Harris.
Ten-year-old Patrick Crocker says he loves the ice hockey sessions, but after an hour-long practice, he looks forward to "getting the headache cap off, which is the helmet...it always gives me a headache!"
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