The Florida Panthers and the NHL offer kids the ultimate hockey training experience

SUNRISE, FLA. (WSVN) - A little slip and fall, even an occasional wipeout. It’s all just part of teaching kids a really cool sport.

“I love hockey” said Austin Dorfman.

His reaction is exactly what Florida Panthers Youth Hockey Manager Matt Jurunsz and the NHL wants to accomplish with their “Learn to Play” program.

“It’s an extremely important initiative and we’re lucky that the League helps support this” Jurunsz explains. “We need more kids playing, I mean, that’s the backbone of our sport. We want kids to be ambassadors for our game, and through this program, that’s how we get these kids. We wouldn’t have 50 kids out here if it wasn’t supported by the League and subsidized costs. This is how we get kids playing hockey.”

Karen Dorfman describes her joy of seeing her child follow his parents footsteps. “I’m happy he’s playing a sport that my husband and I both play, and it just lights me up every time I see him get on the ice.”

However, hockey is far from easy, as many first timers on the ice found out the hard way.

Mike Hoffman from Panthers Forward explains the difference between walking and skating. “It’s a little different than walking, you get put in little steel blades in the bottom of your feet and it can be, you know, very challenging. I was here at one point too, and you know, some of these kids looked like they picked it up pretty quickly.”

Parent Mr. Kern said “watching her learn to be self-sufficient, falling down and working to get back up and keep going is great, it’s amazing.”

Playing hockey can also be a pretty penny for parents. Lessons can costs thousands of dollars.

The Panthers Program, however, provides boys and girls from ages 5 to 9 six weeks of on-ice training with Florida Panthers USA Hockey certified coaches for just $175.

Lee Offir, another parent with a child in the program, explains the benefits. “For what it costs for him to do this, and the amount of gear that he gets to keep, he gets skates, everything is his to keep, it’s a no-brainer for us as parents to put him through a program like this, thanks to the NHL, thanks to the Florida Panthers.”

“Obviously hockey is not the most popular sport down in South Florida, but the more you can expand it, the better it is for everybody” Hoffman explains.

The children involved all skated away with a new appreciation for playing on frozen water.

Hockey player Sadie Kern said “My favorite part was when I scored a goal.”

Another player explains his favorite part was “racing on the ice.”

Kingston Campbell said “Ice hockey is so fun, I can’t wait to come next week.”

For any parents and children looking to join the Panthers “Learn and Play” program, you can slide into the next season, which begins April 6.

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