While ice hockey traces its origins to the cold Canadian winters of Montreal, the always “cool” sport continues to grow further from those boundaries and the Owensboro Youth Hockey Association continues to provide opportunities for kids of all ages.
Jason Koger, president of the Owensboro Youth Hockey Association, said he did not have a lot of knowledge about ice hockey before his son became involved in the Little Preds Learn to Play program two years ago. The program, which is currently on hiatus due to COVID-19, is a partnership with the Nashville Predators NHL team and is open to ages 5 to 9.
“I didn’t even now Owensboro had a hockey league to be honest with you,” Koger said. “It has been around for a long time.”
Koger said he is looking forward to serving as board president, and doing his best to get the word out about the opportunities available with the Owensboro Youth Hockey Association.
Ice hockey got its start in Owensboro in 1971.
The association has two teams representing Kentucky at National events. The Owensboro Rampage high school team, which won back-to-back Kentucky High School Hockey League state titles in 2020 and 2021. Before that, they won titles in 2012 and 2016.
Unable to compete at the national level in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the team represented Kentucky in Boise, Idaho in April.
In addition, the 14u Owensboro Puck Hogs won the Mid-America AA District tournament and represented Kentucky at the national championships in McKinney, Texas.
Koger said the sport definitely seems to be gaining more momentum in Kentucky and other areas farther away from Montreal.
“When you think about Nashville, there are four or five rinks now for youth hockey,” he said. “It is definitely getting bigger and I feel like Owensboro has always had a decent amount of kids doing it, but I just don’t think that people always know about us.”
Brittni Klotzback, Owensboro Parks recreation supervisor, said the Edge Ice Center, 1400 Hickman Ave., is the only municipally owned ice center in Kentucky.
After it was built, the city’s hockey offerings expanded to include year-round recreation time for pickup games.
Registrations are open for the association’s fall league until Friday, Oct. 1.
“They start as young as 4 years old, and that fall league is a recreational league,” Klotzback said.
Discounted rates are available for first-year players, and gear is also provided as well.
Koger said it is amazing to see how quickly the kids learn the ins and outs of ice hockey and skating, and that he doesn’t want to see anyone be afraid to give it a try simply because they don’t have a lot of experience on ice skates.
The ice center will host a “Play Ice Hockey For Free Day” on Saturday, Oct. 23, which is geared for new hockey players around 6 to 10 years old. There is no registration required to attend the event, which begins at 10 a.m. for equipment fittings and concludes with an hour of free skate time until noon.
“They can practice and skate around and learn to shoot pucks and that kind of thing and then they would leave that day with a free jersey and a free stick,” Klotzback said.
Koger said that being a winter sport, ice hockey is also a great way for kids to stay active during the coldest months of the year.
“It is a winter sport, so these kids to stay active and exercising and not are not just playing the video games.,” he said.
For more information about the Owensboro Youth Hockey Association or its programming, visit www.owensborohockey.com.