Area youth, including students from the University of Notre Dame Robinson Community Learning Center, took to the ice recently as part of the Little Blackhawks Learn to Play program, a legacy of the NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium that saw the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Boston Bruins on New Year’s Day.
Dressed head to toe in hockey gear — helmets, pads, gloves, jerseys, pants, shin guards, skates and socks — the 5-to-9-year-olds practiced skating and stick handling on the ice at Compton Family Ice Arena under the supervision of arena staff.
First lesson: Falling.
“It’s important that they know that everyone falls down. We actually tell them that, as coaches, we fall down,” said Michael McNeill, programming and instruction manager at Compton. “We like to say, ‘If you’re not falling down, you’re not trying.’ Then it’s ‘How do you get up? How do you get up quick?’”
The kids, nearly indistinguishable under so much gear, alternately stumbled and glided across the ice, sticks outstretched for balance. Some fell, but then quickly recovered, their moms and dads looking on.
Jennifer Pittman, of South Bend, watched from the concourse as her daughter, Karis Ivory, 8, practiced turns below.
“We’ve been ice skating a few times, and she really loved the ice,” Pittman said of Karis, a student at Nuner Fine Arts Academy as well as the Robinson Center, an off-campus educational initiative of Notre Dame serving the Northeast Neighborhood south of campus.