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AREA HOCKEY: Born to be Wild

Little Minnesota Wild program holds first session in Marshall for area youth hockey players

Photo by Sam Thiel A group of young players participate in a skating drill during the Little Minnesota Wild Learn to Play program on Sunday at the Red Baron Arena and Expo. The program is intented for area kids who have not been a part of USA Hockey organized youth hockey programs before and will run each weekend in September.

MARSHALL – They laced up their skates and put on their pads. They snapped on their helmets and grabbed a hockey stick. They opened up the gates and with a sharp whistle shrill, the next wave of hockey’s youth took to the ice.

Forty-seven area kids were on hand Sunday evening at the Red Baron Arena and Expo for the start of the Little Minnesota Wild Learn to Play program, the first of four sessions held by the Wild, Minnesota Hockey and Marshall area hockey.

Program director Christian Becker said it’s great to finally have the program come to Marshall and see lots of kids excited to play hockey.

“It was amazing seeing the kids come off with smiles after this,” Becker said. “Just having 47 kids here in Marshall is amazing playing hockey for the first time for the majority of them.”

Players were taken through various skating drills throughout the hour session, from weaving around cones and sticks and skating to a stop to sliding and getting up and down on the ice.

“It looked like they were doing a lot of ups-and-downs, getting kids comfortable in skates and being on skates because the majority of the kids never skated before,” Becker said. “So it looked like they tried to incorporate different skills into skating. In one corner they were having kids pick up balls and pucks off their knees and trying to get back up and get them to the next spot.”

But through it all, Becker said their main and most important goal is to have fun.

“The coaches are trying to keep fun as the No. 1 priority; just trying to learn skating through fun drills and playfulness and it looks like they all had a good time,” he said.

The next training session will be held next Sunday from 5-6 p.m. at the Red Baron Arena. Becker said the biggest takeaway is making sure the kids have fun and learn a little bit, too.

“I think they’re going to keep working on fundamentals for the whole four weeks and try to improve from the last week and getting the kids more comfortable in skates,” Becker said. “I think it’s a factor of just how fun hockey can be. Obviously the biggest thing is to have the kids walk off with a smile and enjoying it.”

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