Creating a Culture of Hockey in Perham

The Perham school district rivals and competes with the best the state of Minnesota has to offer. District 549 is a recent “Challenge Cup” winner and a perennial contender in all sports and academic activities, from gymnastics to knowledge bowl, from wrestling to mock trial, Perham excels. Perham is situated in an area of over 1,000 lakes. There is ample hunting, fishing, skiing and many more fun outdoor activities. However, as a community, Perham has never offered hockey! PAYHA is trying to change that.

Starting a program in an area that does not have a hockey culture is a daunting task. We began by getting the word out any way possible, including school handouts, parade attendance and a presence in any community event available. Congruently, we spent time dispelling some of the myths of hockey, including: expenses, time commitment and the notion a new program would take kids away from other existing programs.

Expense was the easiest myth to conquer. PAYHA is free. The kids need to come with skates and a stick. That is it. We have had plenty of equipment in the past, but now with the explosion of kids we are short. We will purchase enough to get by for 2010 but need help going forward. I believe we are at the beginning of a great program and could use all the assistance that is available. No sense in trying to reinvent the wheel. Especially since at one time or another all of Minnesota was in our boat.

Time commitment came easy as well. Have a Mite program and kids will join. Taking your 4- to 7-year-old 30 miles to the nearest program three nights a week, well that might not happen, so we started one here. Last year, we had 14 kids participate. This year, we have more than doubled our numbers to 32 kids and 14 that get waivered to Detroit Lakes.

We have divided this year’s program in two parts: Learn to Skate (LTS) and Mite Hockey. Of the 32 players, 20 are LTS (4 to 6 years olds) and super excited. The remaining dozen are Mites looking to learn and excel at hockey skills and drills and hopefully play some scrimmages.

What we lack is the availability of equipment in the community. If families want equipment for their kids, they have to travel. Some go the 30 miles to Detroit Lakes. Most go to Fargo, a 65-mile drive.

As far as taking kids away from other non-hockey programs in town, I could not disagree more. Something about hockey appealed to our 32 kids. We have eight girls who have never been on ice and are taking to it wonderfully. We have kids who have tried other sports and have chosen this great Minnesota game, and a few others who just want to be different.

The kids, along with their parents and our coaches could not be more amazing. But the biggest need we have is equipment and ice. Ice will be the next great thing. We have a half-sheet now and have great ice since the purchase of a used Zamboni last season. We are in need of a full sheet. Our goal is two full-size sheets side by side.

With the goal of keeping an introduction to hockey inexpensive, we provide all the equipment for free and charge nothing for the program. Helmets, pads, pucks, nets and even some skates are crucial to the growth of the program. Our donors have been great. However, as a program, we dislike having to keep tapping the same well. To keep up with our projected expansion, our needs will grow exponentially with our numbers of participants and finding ice for these kids to play on and equipment to use will continue to be our main objectives.

For more information please email

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Trent Swanson, President of the Perham Youth Hockey Association, for highlighting the status of one of Minnesota’s newest hockey communities.

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