Young newcomers say playing hockey is 'awesome'

Hockey Manitoba and the Winnipeg Jets gave 26 children a chance to play hockey Saturday, many of them for the first time.
Twenty-six children play hockey at the Pioneer Arena on Logan Avenue Saturday. They were taking advantage of new donated gear they received from Hockey Manitoba and the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation. It's the program's fourth year. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Hockey Manitoba and the Winnipeg Jets gave 26 children a chance to play hockey Saturday.

The two organizations teamed up to outfit the kids with donated hockey equipment, putting the young, new Canadians on the ice, many for the first time.

The skates, helmets, jerseys and other donated gear was all new.

It's part of Hockey Manitoba's 'Just Play,' program to introduce young people to hockey.

Saturday's 'Hockey Discovery Days' was specifically for kids between 5 and 12 years of age.

Hockey Manitoba's Dustin Stewart said it's also a way to grow the game.

"Hockey has been on a bit of a decline with a lot of different sectors in communities really," he said. "Based on the cost of the game, a lot of people don't get exposed to it as they used to."

The children belong to the hockey program of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba.

It's the program's fourth year.

Coach Jen Glenwright said the hockey program is more popular than ever.

"It's a really big part of Canadian Culture," she said. "So when they come to Canada, the first thing they want to do is get on the ice and learn how to play our favourite sport."

Glenwright said without the donations, the youngsters would not have had the chance to play.

One of the young players, Richard, said playing hockey is "awesome."

"We get to slide and it's easier than walking. And faster," he said. 

Normally, Richard said he plays football and soccer and while he's good in soccer, he's "kind of good in hockey."

"It's really hard to look for a team and you can only play in winter," he said.