skip navigation

Raising a Rink Rat

By Touchpoint Media, Special to Minnesota Hockey, 01/13/20, 2:00PM CST


Your kid might be a rink rat when …

In the winter, they are at the outdoor rink so often, you only see them when they come home for supper before they head back for a nighttime skate.

The sound of stickhandling in the basement has become soothing background noise.

You’ve considered buying your own skate sharpener.

Your life sometimes feels like a Terrence Fogarty painting.

What are some things parents do to foster their children’s love and passion for the sport? How do kids become rink rats?

Take It Outside

Minnesota is still a haven for outdoor hockey, but that tradition must be passed on. If you haven’t already, scope out the nearby parks and ponds, layer up the kids, have them call friends, and drop them off for some shinny hockey. All ages and skill levels are welcome with open arms on Minnesota’s outdoor rinks.

These are where skills are developed, creativity shines, and friendships bloom – just ask Pat Micheletti.

“My linemates since Squirts were the Hooper twins (Gary and Greg Hooper). We were the best line in the state. Honestly, the three of us must have skated together on the outdoor ice every day. We’d skate outside from morning until night,” Micheletti said. “When we got cold we just went inside for a bit, warmed up, had some hot cocoa, and went right back onto the ice. That’s how you got better. That’s how I got better!”

A special stick tap to all of the backyard rink operators who enable their kids to experience this tradition right off their back step!

A Carpool Coordinator

There are some kids who would spend all day, every day on the outdoor rink, whether they’re the only one out there or it’s filled with people. For many kids though, playing the game of hockey is only one component of the fun they have on the ice.

Next time your player is interested in heading to the local outdoor rink, invite the rest of his or her team and offer to carpool to the rink. The extra players will enhance the fun for everyone.

Create a Stickhandling/Shooting Area

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but an area in the basement or in the garage/driveway for kids is huge. This gives them the freedom and space to practice on their own, without pressure or direction from anyone else. It gives the athlete autonomy and an opportunity to take responsibility for their own development.

Here are a few ideas to help create a shooting/stickhandling space:

  • Hang up a tarp with a spray-painted net
  • Lay down a smooth surface for stickhandling/shooting
  • Collect a bucket of pucks and some golf/tennis balls
  • Leave out a mirror for them to work on keeping their head up
  • Put out a heater or fan to control the temperature
  • Speakers for music or a TV to watch the game and stream highlight reel plays

If they’re looking for drill ideas, here are some off-ice stickhandling videos from USA Hockey:

Find Inspiration

No one can deny kids today have more things competing for their attention than ever before. One thing that hasn’t changed though is kids’ imaginations are captured by special experiences that have the power to impact their behavior for days and weeks to come.

So if you’re hoping your son or daughter will fall in love with the game of hockey, providing them opportunities to experience events like Hockey Day Minnesota this weekend, the State High School Hockey Tournament, or other examples on this list, may provide the moment of awe that hooks them on the game for life.

Ultimately, being a rink rat has to be each individual’s choice, but these four steps can expose them to how much fun it can really be.

Most Popular