Eagle’s Mile High Mites program aims to instill love of hockey in kids | VailDaily.com

Eagle’s Mile High Mites program aims to instill love of hockey in kids

EAGLE — As his dad tried to decipher where to place the various pieces of equipment he pulled from an equipment bag that was nearly as big as his son, 5-year-old Reynolds Pohl said he was really excited about the new skates on his feet.

Friday, Sept. 29, marked the first time Reynolds had ever ventured on to the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink and when he stepped out on that surface, the Gypsum boy was fully clad in brand new hockey gear, compliments of the Mile High Mites program sponsored by the Colorado Avalanche and Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District.

The learn-to-play youth hockey program is new to WECMRD this fall and 51 local youth, ages 5 to 9, are participating.

"It is great to see so many kids getting started in hockey with this awesome opportunity," said Eagle Pool & Ice Rink manager Sheryl Staten. "For $160 the kids receive head-to-toe hockey gear and six on-ice sessions. What a deal."

Reynold's dad, Tom Pohl, agreed. Prior to hearing about the program, Pohl didn't think he would ever be a hockey dad. Between equipment costs, ice fees and travel times, Pohl thought hockey would be too much of a hassle.

"It's a good sport, though," he said "Hopefully it will be good for him for him before skiing this winter. We are lucky to have this opportunity."

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Those words are precisely what the program hopes to hear.

Maximize participation

Mile High Mites is "built to maximize the number of kids playing hockey in Colorado by proving the gold standard of learn-to-play programs," reads the program brochure. "Each host association will provide a fun and effective program by delivering the game in an age-appropriate manner."

By hosting Mile High Mites, WECMRD is providing ice time for the six program sessions during October.

For the first session on Friday, there were a number of never-ever skaters such as Reynolds. There were also a number of kids who had some skating experience. They were joined on the ice by local hockey enthusiasts who hope to instill a love of the sport.

Later in the season, the Colorado Avalanche wants to send some alumni players to spend time on the ice with the kids in support of the team program.

Bag of goodies

Each participant in the Mile High Mites program received a program jersey, helmet, skates, gloves, shoulder pads, shin guards, elbow pads, hockey pants, a 30" equipment band and a special Mile High Mites stick.

"That's the hook. They give you everything you need to get started," Pohl said. "I never played hockey so I just need to make sure we put everything on in the right place."

Reynolds was eager to get on the ice but reasonably patient as he and his dad figured out how to wear his new gear.

"This stuff will make you invincible," Tom told his son.

As he flashed a big grin underneath his helmet face guard, Reynolds signaled he was ready to test out that assertion. He shared a high five with coach Zach Blom of the Vail Mountaineer Hockey Club and stepped out on the ice.

To learn more about the Mile High Miles program, visit LearntoPlay.NHLcom/Avalanche.

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