Youth take advantage of free hockey lessons

Hitting the ice after school is not a common idea for kids in the south, but the Pelham Youth Hockey League is looking to do its part in changing that.

“It’s our way to try to get kids involved in the program that might normally never be involved,” said PYHL president Jeff Harris about the Learn to Play program.

Every Tuesday night in September, from 6:45-7:45, kids can learn hockey skills at the Pelham Civic Complex from members of the University of Alabama club hockey team and PYHL coaches.

“It’s great to have this introductory free program provided by the city to just try to peak interest,” PYHL director of hockey Jeff Cheeseman said.

The Civic Complex is one of the few ice rinks in the Southeast, so the PYHL is not just hoping to give children from the center of Alabama a chance to hit the ice but also those from neighboring states.

“There’s no open ice time (here with all we have going on),” Harris said. “This is our way to give those kids an opportunity to get out on the ice with the gear, with the sticks, with the pucks and with some guys who are knowledgeable about the game.”

One of those first timers showing up to the first session Sept. 2 was Luke Underwood, 5, of Alabaster. Underwood heard about the program from his 6-year old neighbors who let him borrow a pair of skates.

“I think he was most excited about the skates,” Luke’s mother Amiee said. “He put them on walking around on the carpet at home.”

It wasn’t long before Alabama Frozen Tide player Will Damare found Luke to help teach him to skate. The rest of the night, Damare was seen pushing Luke in a folding chair across the ice until Like was comfortable to skate behind the chair for support.

“The stick wasn’t really working just pulling him towards me, so I figured that would work a lot better,” Damare said. “I didn’t start skating until I was a sophomore in high school, so I’m probably the closest to him than anybody out here as far as learning to skate.”

Despite falling a number of times through the night, Luke continued to get up and attempt to steady his legs on ice.

“He’s making me choke up with all of the determination he’s showing,” said Luke’s father Brian. “He never quits. He just keeps going and getting up. That’s the kind of attitude I want my kids to have.”

The session was also Damare’s first time to a Learn to Play event. He said he hopes Luke will continue to come to the other sessions and be skating freely by the end of the month.