‘Try Hockey for Free’ provides an outlet for the growing hockey community in Janesville

JANESVILLE, Wis. — More than 100 first time skaters took to the ice to try hockey for free at the Janesville Ice Arena Saturday afternoon.

“Try Hockey for Free” is part of a national initiative to introduce the game to children who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to play.

“Really, it’s a way to get kids involved in hockey at a very low cost, free,” said Will Springer, Vice President of Janesville Youth Hockey. “It’s a way to kind of have them test out the game without committing to paying registration fees for a season.”

Springer says the cost of hockey can prevent some from trying it at all, even if costs aren’t as big of a factor as some would realize.

“Honestly, I think that the cost barrier is a bit of a misconception when you start playing hockey,” he said. “Our youth program at 8 and under, we provide equipment for the kids. There’s zero cost there. The registration fees are really reasonable.”

Janesville has seen its hockey community grow in the last decade, partially due to the arrival of the NAHL Janesville Jets team. In the past year, the discussion of a lack of ice time has led to the proposal for a new indoor sports complex.

“What we see sometimes is 8 and 9-year-olds getting off the ice at 9:30 P.M,” said Shelton Tripp of the Jets. “If you go home and have to eat before or after that, or do homework before or after that, and then get up at six to go on the bus, that’s tough.”

Both Tripp and Springer are hopeful today’s event will allow more kids to achieve access to the game.

“Janesville’s really becoming a hot bed for hockey,” Springer said. “Especially in the southern portion of the state.”