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Free learn to play hockey kids clinics offered in Duluth

DULUTH — Kids can get a taste for most sports without parents having to fork out a ton of money.

Hockey is one that requires a lot of equipment and paying for ice time, none of which is cheap.

Patrick Houlihan is working to change that.

The Gwinnett Gladiators former equipment manager and a hockey instructor at the IceForum in Duluth is running several learn hockey for free clinics this year. The first will be Saturday at 3 p.m. in Duluth. There’s another at 12:50 p.m. on Sunday in Kennesaw and three or four more planned throughout the hockey season.

“Any other sport, a kid can get a taste of it on their own,” Houlihan said. “You can go in the backyard and toss them a ball and swing a bat. Football, soccer, same thing.

“Hockey, you can’t.”

Houlihan has enough equipment to outfit 40-50 kids. Boys and girls age 4 to 9 are invited to come to either of the sessions this weekend.

“The only stipulation is they can’t have played any organized hockey prior to that,” Houlihan said. “It’s free of charge. The ice is free. The equipment is free.”

The only thing kids should bring, and only if they have it, is a helmet. There’s no pre-registration for this weekend — there will be for ones in November and February which are being run in conjunction with USA Hockey.

“They just need to show up at least an hour early because these kids have never gotten dressed in the gear before,” Houlihan said. “And we get them information afterward on our learn to skate programs and just try to get them hooked on it.”

There will be local youth players on hand to help — some kids need to glom on to a good skater — and the Gladiators will be involved in one of the sessions later in the year.

“We did three last year and we’re going to try to do, in Duluth, definitely four, maybe five, throughout the season,” Houlihan said. “The Gladiators really stepped up. (President Steve Chapman) gave us the ice (at the arena) twice last year and then we did one at the IceForum.

“It’s cool. It’s a lot of fun.”