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New Players

New to Hockey??

Below are several topics to get you familiar with youth hockey and how it all works.  We hope you find it helpful!

Welcome to the Forest Lake Hockey Association (FLHA)!

Thank you for considering signing up your son or daughter to play hockey in our community.  FLHA has some of the most wonderful families you'll ever find and we think you'll really enjoy all the new friendships you and your child will make here!  Below you will find information related to new players and some commonly asked questions.  For anything else that we haven't covered, please email:

Curt Smith - Recruiting & Retention Director - recruitment@flhockey.org

What are the benefits of children learning to play hockey?

Hockey is not only a Minnesota tradition, but if you talk to families who have children that play hockey, most will share a common theme in regards to things they've noticed such as:

  • Advanced hand/eye coordination - skating and stickhandling at the same time is an incredibly difficult skill to acquire.  Learning to do this at an early age can make other sports like golf, tennis, baseball, softball, lacrosse, etc much easier to pick up later for these kids.
  • Improved athleticism - the leg strength and balance that is required of new skaters tends to help with other endeavors that require a strong core and lower body strength such as running, skiing, soccer, and many other sports.
  • Teammate skills that endure - hockey is a team sport that requires players coordinating together on the ice for a common goal.  Over time they begin to learn that passing and working together offers the best path to success.  These are lessons that can serve a person for a lifetime.
  • Improved social skills  - learning to play hockey is a difficult sport with much more failure than success and the children that participate tend to be more accepting of themselves and others.  The comradery they have with their teammates seems to ultimately help them to be more confident in other social situations with other kids.

What equipment is needed for hockey

One of the great benefits of learning to skate while wearing hockey equipment is that it doesn't hurt to fall down.  So kids tend to enjoy it more (ie 'tolerate' it more) and gain confidence earlier.  So what equipment is needed:

  • hockey helmet
  • shoulder pads
  • elbow pads
  • hockey gloves
  • breezers/pants
  • shin guards
  • skates (no double blade skates)
  • skate guards (to cover the blades when not on the ice)
  • hockey stick (not always necessary for beginner programs)
  • jock shorts with a protective cup (highly encouraged)
  • mouth guard (highly encouraged)
  • jersey (most often provided by the program)
  • hockey sox - these are thick wool wraps that cover the shin guards (most often provided by the program)

Lastly, most little kids will wear some comfy pajamas under their hockey equipment for maximum comfort.  And some kids get all their equipment on at home and then just put on skates once they arrive at the rink.  Other families will bring the whole bag to the rink and dress them there (sometimes it's nice to do it around other families because you might need help figuring out how everything is supposed to go on) :-)

How to dress your hockey player

How to save money on hockey equipment

To help with the initial cost of hockey equipment, there are several options for families to consider:

  • FLHA offers new equipment sets to new families thru a partnership with Strauss Skate in Maplewood but supplies are limited.  To check availability email recruitment@flhockey.org
  • The Little Wild Learn to Play program thru the MN Wild offers a package that includes 4 ice sessions and an equipment set for $180 (plus free tickets to a Wild pre-season game) and is held throughout the TwinCities.  For more info:  www.wild.com/littlewild
  • since skates are not typically included with most of these packages, FLHA annually offers a "Skate Exchange" where we collect skates from other families that their kids have outgrown and recycle them within our program.  This years event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept 23rd from 3:15 - 5:15 on the South rink.  Supplies are limited however
  • Used equipment is a great option for newer skaters while they're figuring out if they enjoy the sport so many of our families go to Play it Again Sports (Blaine and other locations) to get their kids gently used equipment

So GET GEARED UP families..... your kids are going to LOVE IT!  (they think they're little superheros!)

What level should I sign my child up for?

FLHA has a variety of program levels that will suit most any situation.  Since most kids tend to start hockey when they are 4 to 6 years old, you will find most beginner programs are centered around those ages. But for kids that start at a later age,  we will work with you to determine the best  level for your particular skater.  If you have any questions, please email Curt Smith at recruitment@flhockey.org

Junior Rangers (our new beginner program!)

This is the level that most kids start at.  It is for boys and girls ages 4 to 7 with little to no skating ability and no previous lessons or classes.  The cost is $75 and starter equipment sets are available for purchase (in limited supply) for $25!  Please note that skates are NOT included with this.  Here are a few other details regarding this program:

  • practices will be on Sunday mornings (at 8:30 or 9:15) and last for 45 minutes
  • we start Oct 29th and go until the end of Feb (with some weekends off for holidays, etc).  There will be 14 ice sessions
  • jerseys and Sox are provided on the 1st day
  • a limited supply of new equipment sets are available for purchase for $25 and can be reserved when you register
  • each session will have a lead coach and we will separate the kids into groups based on skill level. No 'teams' are formed
  • any and all parents/grandparents/etc are invited to be on the ice to help out even if they don't skate very well (but you must have skates on AND a helmet)
  • hockey sticks are NOT allowed at the beginning and will be provided by the program when each skater reaches a minimum skating competence
  • all activities will focus on finding fun ways to teach them #1)  how to get up by themselves #2)  how to stand upright  #3)  begin to move around with shuffles (and eventually glides)
  • many of the activities are simply rewards for their efforts (skating is really hard to do at first!).  We might pull them around the ice with hockey sticks or give them a ride on a cone.  Or we may throw a bunch of stuffed animals on the ice and have them go pick them up and put them back in the bucket.  it's all about getting them to move around and trying to make it fun and wanting to come back the next week.
  • over the course of the season, as these kids get more comfortable on the ice, we will introduce hockey sticks and puck play.  And by the end of the season they will even start to do some actual skating drills.  But it's a gradual curve, and every kid gets there on a different timeframe.
  • By the end of the season, most or all of the kids will be ready to move up to the Mite/8U level next year.

Registration for this program will open on September 1st.  If you have questions please email Curt Smith at recruitment@flhockey.org.

Jr Ranger Registration Link

MITE - Level 1

This level is for boys and girls ages 4 to 7 who have completed an introductory hockey program or beginner skating class.  These kids should have basic skating skills (ie they can shuffle or glide independently and are able to stand up on their own).  Here are some other details about this level:

  • the season starts Oct 1st and runs thru the end of Feb
  • practices are primarily on Saturdays & Sundays (times vary) and will last 45 minutes to an hour.  Most families will not have 100% attendance and that's okay.  We expect to provide the schedule for Oct, Nov, and Dec by the 1st practice so families can plan accordingly.  The Jan/Feb schedule is normally released in mid-Dec.
  • there also may be the possibility for 2 or 3 "small ice" games for the teams (typically held at the Lumberyard rink in Stillwater) and those dates will be worked out thru your coaches
  • there are typically 3 different teams at Mite level 1 and they will all practice together and share the ice.  Each team will have a Head Coach and several asst coaches and these are all volunteer parents (no hired coaches).  If you have any interest in helping on the ice (you do NOT have to be a good skater) we could use all the help we can get.  Please indicate your interest when you register your child (that will be one of the questions).
  • teams are usually formed to try and keep kids from the same elementary school together but it's an imperfect formula and doesn't always work out smoothly.  Usually there are 13-15 kids per team.
  • these teams also typically need someone to volunteer to be a Team Manager (help with communication and possibly coordinate some off-ice activities for the kids) so if you are interested in helping with that, please indicate as such when you register (it's one of the questions).
  • Mite level 1 will have more skating and puck handling drills than what Jr Rangers/Intro/etc has but we still incorporate LOTS of fun games to keep the kids engaged and encourage them to move around.  Even a simple game like Sharks and Minnows is often a great way to end a practice as it's a super fun thing for the kids and they leave the ice sweating and smiling and can't wait for the next practice! :-)
  • The cost for Mite Level 1 is $250 and you will find a registration link below.  There is a 2 step process to registration.... first you must register with USA Hockey (cost is $15 for ages 4 - 6) and then go back to FLHA to register for the Mite level 1.
  • new players may be eligible for a discounted starter set of equipment (limited availability) so please email Curt Smith to see if equipment is available recruitment@flhockey.org

Registration Link

Other programs for 7 & 8 year olds

If your son or daughter is 7 or 8 and never played hockey before, it can be a bit of a challenge to determine the best level for them.  And especially for 8 year olds, if they continue in hockey, they will move up to the Squirt/10u level the following year and that's a BIG jump from beginner programs.  But, if they're up for the challenge and ready to get caught up with the others, these options can potentially get them up to speed.

Mite - level 2

This level is for boys and girls typically age 5 to 7 who have 2+ years of skating program experience.  But if you're child is 7 yrs old and new to hockey & skating, we would recommend they do a pre-season Learn to Skate program and then move into Mite 2 so they're with similar aged kids and practices are more frequent so they're likely to catch up faster.  But here are a few things to be aware of:

  • we do not have starter equipment sets for this age group
  • the program is more expensive than other beginner programs
  • since FLHA is an ALL-VOLUNTEER run association, Mite 2 level and above will have volunteer requirements that apply to all levels above the beginner programs

Mite - level 3 (Boys)

This level is for BOYS typically age 6 to 8 who have 3+ years of skating program experience.  But if your son is 8 yrs old and new to hockey & skating, we would recommend they do a pre-season Learn to Skate program and then move into Mite 3 so they're with similar aged kids and practices are more frequent so they're likely to catch up faster.  But here are a few things to be aware of:

  • we do not have starter equipment sets for this age group
  • the program is more expensive than other beginner programs
  • since FLHA is an ALL-VOLUNTEER run association, Mite 2 level and above will have volunteer requirements that apply to all levels above the beginner programs

8U - level 3 (girls)

This level is for GIRLS typically age 6 to 8 who have 3+ years of skating program experience.  But if your daughter is 8 yrs old and new to hockey & skating, we would recommend they do a pre-season Learn to Skate program and then move into 8U so they're with similar aged kids and practices are more frequent so they're likely to catch up faster.  But here are a few things to be aware of:

  • we do not have starter equipment sets for this age group
  • the program is more expensive than other beginner programs
  • since FLHA is an ALL-VOLUNTEER run association, Mite 2 & 8u level 2 and above will have volunteer requirements that apply to all levels above the beginner programs