More than 144 the First Shift programs have been confirmed for the 2016-17 season in provinces right across the country, many of whom are already fully subscribed. The response from Canadian families is no surprise to program organizers.
“Since those first four pilots in the spring of 2014, the interest in the First Shift has continued to grow, and it has not been an unusual occurrence for us to have to turn away interested families – in fact, it’s much more common for us to see the programs over-subscribed than under,” said Paul Carson, vice-president of membership development for Hockey Canada. “As much as Canada identifies with hockey as a symbol of our country and our citizenship, for parents who didn’t grow up playing the game – be it new Canadians or simply didn’t take part in the sport themselves growing up – The First Shift provides an easy way for them to let their kids try out the sport, and for them to become familiar with hockey’s fundamentals and the basics of the game and the equipment.
“We’ve found a substantive market for The First Shift, and are really excited about the opportunity to welcome one of Hockey Canada’s long-standing partners, Canadian Tire, to the program as we seek to reach double the number of Canadian families this season alone.”
This year, the First Shift returns to 59 communities, while 64 new communities will welcome the program. All programs are run locally by minor hockey associations, and powered by volunteers.
Growing the female game
New this season are 14 all-girl programs. The First Shift has always been open to both boys and girls, but one all-girl program was piloted in 2015-16 in Quebec, and this year, more communities have come on board as part of their strategy to grow the female game in their areas.
With an emphasis on fun, the First Shift allows kids ages 6-10 to easily try hockey for $199, which includes enrollment for a six-week, on-ice curriculum and head-to-toe BAUER equipment that each child can keep. The initiative began in 2014 with four pilot programs in Ontario and Nova Scotia, expanded the following year to 35 programs, and doubled to 81 programs delivered in the 2015-16 hockey season.
Based on surveys of families and parents whose children participated in the First Shift, 86 per cent of participants re-enroll into hockey in the First Shift Transition Program, 100 per cent of parents said their kids had fun, and 100 per cent of parents would recommend the program to a friend.
To learn more about the First Shift and how to register, please visit TheFirstShift.ca.
Minor Hockey Associations hosting a First Shift event this fall:
- Botwood – NL
- Corner Brook – NL
- Deer Lake – NL
- Grand FallsWindsor – NL
- Paradise, NL