What program is right for my skater?
The right program for your skater will depend on his or her age and skill level. NVHA has two programs for beginners: (1) our Learn to Skate Program meets on Saturday mornings at Lossone Rink in Easthampton at 10:20 a.m. and is geared towards beginner skaters ages 4 to 8 (although age exceptions can be arranged); and (2) our Learn to Play Program is geared for the same age group and meets with the Learn to Skate Program on Saturday mornings.
Skaters interested in joining a youth hockey team are encouraged to do so. NVHA has teams that compete in the Novice division (ages 4-7); the Mite division (ages 6-8); the Squirt division (ages 9 and 10); the Peewee division (ages 11 and 12); the Bantam division (ages 13 and 14) and the Midget division (ages 15 and up).
Older beginner skaters are welcome to try playing on one of our youth hockey teams, particularly in the Novice, Mite and Squirt age brackets. Children’s skills develop very quickly in the 8-10 age range and you may be surprised at how much improvement you see in your skater at the end of his or her first season on a competitive team, regardless of his or her starting point. In past years, NVHA’s Squirt teams have won the championship with a number of skaters who had never played organized hockey before the season began. Every player on those teams contributed to the winning season!
What equipment does my skater need?
Outfitting your skater with the right equipment does not have to be expensive or confusing. Our area has a number of excellent skate shops with knowledgeable staff who can help you find the right equipment (often used skates and pads) at a reasonable price. And keep in mind that you may well be able to recover some of your costs when you trade in your player’s equipment for his or her next upgrade.
For the Learn To Skate program, your skater will need skates, a helmet and gloves. At the Learn To Play level, sticks are used more frequently and skaters are required to have masks and should have real hockey gloves to avoid hand injuries. Shin pads, elbow pads, and hockey pants are also recommended. The more padding your skater has at any age, the less it is going to hurt when he or she falls. A well-padded skater is an enthusiastic learner!
A full complement of hockey equipment is as follows:
- a hockey athletic supporter with cup (the supporter will have velcro patches that serve to hold up the hockey socks)
- shin pads
- hockey socks (socks are provided by NVHA for players on our youth hockey teams)
- hockey pants (hockey pants have pads inside of them that protect the coccyx, hips and thighs)
- shoulder pads
- elbow pads
- hockey jersey (home and away jerseys are provided for players on our youth hockey teams, but kids should have their own jersey for practices)
- helmet with mask (mouth guards are recommended at younger ages and required for older skaters)
- hockey gloves
- a hockey bag to carry it all to the rink.
Skate sizes generally run 1 to 2 sizes smaller than your skater’s ordinary shoe size. Our local skate shops will spend the time with you necessary to get the right size skates. Ill-fitting skates make skating more difficult to learn, leading to disinterest, and also contribute to blisters and cold toes! Try to get the right size skate for your aspiring
player. Skates may be the most frequently traded winter apparel, so you will probably be able to trade them in next year anyway!
If you are confused about equipment for your skater, please let us know. Someone from NVHA would be happy to help. Just reach out to us through our Web site and we will get back to you promptly.
How much will equipment cost?
The cost of equipment varies. Buying used equipment at a local skate shop can go a long way towards keeping costs down. After your initial investment, you will usually be able to just replace one or two items at a time as your skater grows. Trading in your old equipment is a great way to lower the costs for new equipment. Generally, the folks at Gateway Hardware (over time it has become a skate shop) and Bertelli’s Skate Shop can help you outfit a skater within any reasonable budget.
Isn’t ice hockey too expensive?
The costs for ice hockey generally exceed the costs for other programs in large part because ice time is more expensive to rent than are fields or gymnasiums. But we believe that you get more bang for your buck from NVHA’s ice hockey programs. We encourage you to compare the costs of having your skater play hockey with any other sport on a per session basis. NVHA players will have one to two practices per week and generally two games per week. The season also lasts for much longer than other sports, which means that your skater will be active all winter, staying in shape for the entirety of the New England winter season (which really lasts almost ½ of the year!). NVHA strives to keep its costs lower than most of the other area ice hockey programs. We think you will be pleased that you spent your money on ice hockey when you see your skater’s sweaty head and red cheeks after each practice and game!
How is hockey different than other activities for children?
We think hockey is different from other youth sports because it captures so much of what it means to play a team sport at an earlier age than most other team sports.
Our players get to have a locker room experience where they dress and talk and joke with their teammates before games and at practices. Coaches have a chance to gather their teams for pre-game lessons in a closed locker room environment where there are no distractions. Our players may arrive at the rink at different times, but they all take the ice together . . . as a team. When the game is over, hockey players gather again together in the locker room to change out of their equipment and have a chance to talk together about their recent game experience. And then there is that moment when the parents all rush into the locker room together to congratulate their skater and the rest of team on a game well played.
Hockey is also different because the season is longer even at the younger levels. Kids improve noticeably over the course of one hockey season. And they feel their own progress. The experience builds confidence and shows kids that hard work and effort can provide positive returns! Winters in our area can be long and dark and cold, and hockey provides a great opportunity for kids to stay active and get exercise during the months when it is most difficult for them to do so.
Hockey is also different for families. Because hockey players have to arrive at the rink in time to suit up, and because they have a few minutes alone in the locker room before and after games, the adults in our hockey players’ lives have time to get to know each other . . . they sit together in the stands, cheer for each others’ skaters, and become a close-knit group over the course of a season.
Won’t I be up early every weekend?
No. Hockey has earned a bad reputation among late-sleepers over the years. Sure, there will be a few early morning games during the course of the season. But they are few and far between. NVHA generally plays its home games at 9:10 a.m. or later. Plus, there is something special and exciting about setting the alarm to wake up with your young hockey player for an early morning game, getting out of the house while it is still dark, watching your player skate his or her heart out, and still being home in time for a late breakfast, with most of the day still ahead of you. We hear from many folks who would prefer early morning games to sports that are scheduled in the middle of the day.
Will there be a lot of travel?
NVHA plays its home games at Lossone Rink on the Williston campus in Easthampton and practices at Lossone or at the FitzPatrick Rink in Holyoke, which is only about 10-15 minutes over Mt. Tom from Lossone. Other teams who play in the Greater Springfield League with NVHA generally play at the Olympia Ice Arenas, which is just off of Route 91 in West Springfield or at the Collins/Moylan Arena, which is just off of Route 91 in Greenfield. You may also have a team in your division from North Adams, MA or Brattleboro, VT, but you will find that travel to their rinks is minimal -- perhaps a game or two per season. Rarely will your skater be on a team in a division with more than one team from outside of the Route 91 corridor. What is nice about being situated in the Northampton/Easthampton area is that NVHA teams are very centrally located among the GSL’s teams and probably have less travel than most other teams.
You will likely also find that you enjoy the quality time you get to spend with your skater, traveling to games and to practices and, particularly, to rinks that are a little farther away than usual. In these busy times, it is a rare treat for us to be able to spend some time with our kids as captive audiences in our car traveling to a fun and exciting event that we share together. And, of course, there are few things as fun as listening to your skater and a few of his or her teammates talking and having fun together in the carpool to and from a game!
What if we can't make it to every game or practice?
NVHA recognizes that youth hockey may just be one activity of many that our players and player's families are involved in over the course of the season. Many of our players also play other sports, which is encouraged by the new American Development Model (ADM) followed by USA Hockey. Some of our players have other school, travel or extra-curricular activities that are an important part of their lives and may sometimes cause them to miss hockey.
For players on our competitive teams, it is helpful for our coaches if you can communicate in advance when your player will not be able to attend a practice or game, but you can expect them to be understanding of times when your family has another commitment that requires your player to be absent from hockey.
Will there be a lot of physical contact?
Not among the younger players. NVHA is a member of the Greater Springfield League (GSL) and a part of Mass Hockey and USA Hockey. USA Hockey has adopted a model, long accepted and followed in Canada and elsewhere, that prohibits body checking until the Bantam season (after age 12). There still may be some bumping and kids sometimes collide but the emphasis is on skating and skills development and NOT on physical contact.
Absolutely. Girls are welcome and encouraged to play. NVHA’s programs are open to boys and girls at all age levels.
Are there required fund raisers?
No. Your monthly payments cover the full cost of your participation in NVHA’s programs.
Can someone answer more of my questions?
Yes. We recognize that joining a new sport can be confusing and intimidating, especially when it is one with a lot of equipment and that meets at a rink rather than a local school. We would be glad to field all of your questions and to provide you with as much information about our program or hockey in general as you care to hear. Please reach out to us through our Web page and one of our board members or coaches will get back to you promptly.
Thank you for your interest in NVHA and the great sport of ice hockey!