Playtime on Ice: Perth’s Stick and Puck Initiative

We delve into the Town of Perth’s Stick & Puck initiative, an innovative new ice-skating program for this Ontario town’s youth. Special thanks to Cathy McNally, Director of Community Services, for offering us an inside look!

The Town of Perth introduced Stick & Puck for youth 12 and under. Could you tell us more about this great new opportunity?

When we get open ice time that would work well for elementary-school-aged schedules, we offer a free skate for kids who are 12 and under. This is a free, open skate where kids can come on the ice with their gear, and have an hour of free skate time where they can shoot the puck, stick handle and play a pick-up game if numbers allow.

This isn’t a programmed skate; rather, it’s an opportunity for kids to skate and use the ice time in the way they wish.

What was the inspiration behind initiating this program? Were there specific community needs or challenges that motivated its creation?

Last winter, I saw the stick and puck in action at the Morrisburg Arena in South Dundas, Ontario. I watched as a dozen kids and a few parents used the hour to play casually on the ice. Whether they were seasoned hockey players or new to the sport, it was great to see the chance for kids to have this free play time. Some kids were working on their shot while others were racing down the ice to practice stickhandling. With such over-scheduled lives, it was really refreshing to watch kids just…play.

I then was inspired to introduce the same concept to our community.

Our Community Services team at the Town of Perth wants to ensure that all our residents have opportunities to use our facilities and, as a result, we explored different programming that are accessible, and this program felt like the perfect fit.

In terms of community response, what kind of feedback or reactions have you received? Can you provide some insights into how the community has embraced or responded to the program?

We have had an amazing response. We have local businesses who have sponsored the hour so that it supports this initiative. Those sponsorship opportunities filled up in one day.

When we promote it on our social media feeds, the outreach is huge as we have many followers sharing the post and expressing their gratitude for this opportunity.

We have had 15-21 kids show up to every stick and puck, and as a new program, we’re really happy with the result.

I’m curious about the impact your program has had so far. Additionally, do you see the program as feasible for continued implementation?

The more we can promote and offer free programming and opportunities for youth to participate in sport, the better.

The Town wants to demonstrate our support for youth to participate in activities, and this is a small way we can use our existing facility to do so.

We’ll continue to offer stick and puck in the future while also exploring other ice times, including low-sensory public skates hours, which will include low lights and no music.

For individuals or groups considering implementing a similar activity, do you have recommendations or insights to share based on your experience?

My biggest piece of advice is to plan out expectations for both staff and the users.

Our team had a planning session prior to its launch. We talked about logistics for our arena staff who would be on site during the stick and puck hour. We had one staff member out on the ice for the first session to help give guidance on expectations for that hour on the ice.

We also outlined that youth need full gear to come out, which we felt was important for safety purposes and eliminated having to police equipment. We set the age limit to 12 so that it reduced any intimidation for younger skaters to come out on the ice.

Lastly, we continue to promote it more than one time, so that busy families can put it in their calendars and be reminded of it leading up to actual day.

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