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First Shift program gives kids a fun and low-cost introduction to hockey

For only $50, kids who have never tried hockey before receive five on-ice sessions, head-to-toe Bauer gear and tickets to a Fargo Force game.

Fargo Grinders
Members of the Fargo Grinders youth hockey team.
Sydney Wolf / The Rink Live

FARGO — Fargo Youth Hockey Association's The First Shift program gives kids who have never played the sport a low-cost opportunity to receive a fun on-ice experience and access to the proper equipment necessary to succeed.

For only $50, children in Fargo who have never played hockey before can participate in five on-ice sessions, receive a head-to-toe Bauer equipment set-up and tickets to a Fargo Force game.

Established in 2013, Bauer partner with Hockey Canada for The First Shift program. In 2019, the NHL Players' Association and the NHL joined in and helped expand the experience. Primarily a Canadian program (the province of Ontario is hosting 81 programs this season, for example), Fargo is one of very few — if not the only — U.S.-based operations.

Originally spearheaded Mike Hartel, the Fargo program has been connected to Bauer for about seven years. Jared Nyquist, a FYHA board member and current director of the program, loves introducing new kids and families to the sport of hockey, which includes helping parents learn how to tie skates and put on their kids' equipment, along with giving those kids their first experiences out on the ice.

"A lot of these kids have never skated before ... There's somewhere around 20 high school hockey players out there at any given time and about five or six coaches to be mentors to new skaters," Nyquist said.

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The First Shift has four different groups that participants can register for, with the 2022 sessions starting on Oct. 1.

Two of the four groups are currently sold out, and over 150 kids typically take part in the program every year.

Participants receive head-to-toe hockey gear from Bauer who partners with The First Shift. If after the program kids decide to register with FYHA for the winter, they get to keep their gear for free, but if they decide that hockey isn't for them they then return it for another child to use. Typically, around 75% of kids will continue on with the sport, but the number varies from year to year.

Along with the support from Bauer, The First Shift program in Fargo also receives local support from Corwin Automotive Group.

Every year, the participants also receive tickets to watch the USHL's Fargo Force in action.

"They put up a big welcome sign to the kids in First Shift and it's just a great experience," Nyquist said.

They are still spaces available to register for The First Shift, and more information along with a link to register can be found on the website for Fargo Hockey .

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Related Topics: YOUTH SPORTS
Sydney Wolf is a reporter for The Rink Live, primarily covering youth hockey. She joined the team in November of 2021 and graduated from St. Cloud State University with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a minor in Writing and Rhetoric Studies and was a part of the University Honors Program.
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