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USATSI_8397203

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The league said it the best: the NHL is taking hockey from the ice to the streets. 

On Tuesday, the NHL announced the launch of the “NHL Street” initiative, a program set on making ball hockey fun and affordable for the next generation of fans in all communities by making the game culturally relevant once again. 

The program takes cues from the NFL’s “NFL Flag” initiative, which saw the league establish the United States’ largest recreational flag football league for children aged 3-17 in 1994 as a means of providing youth with a physical outlet that could foster a love of the sport at a young age. 

With today’s news, the NHL is clearly hoping to achieve something similar. 

In the aftermath of NHL Street’s tentative launch at the 2022 NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas a little over three weeks ago, which provided children ages 8-12 with the opportunity to participate in a number of fun ball hockey activities, the league hopes to expand the program in the years to come in order to serve children aged 5-17, with a specific focus centered upon non-traditional hockey markets.  

“We want to create good memories,” said NHL director of social impact, growth and fan development Andrew Ference at the All-Star Game earlier this month. 

“We don’t need to create a whole batch of the next NHLers. That might happen organically on its own, but we just want [to] create really fun times and memories with hockey.”

With the cost of ice hockey equipment and rink rentals at an all-time high, the NHL is seeking to make street hockey an affordable and accessible entry point for young fans who otherwise faced barriers on their path into the sport. 

NHL Street will be featured prominently at a number of upcoming events on the NHL calendar, beginning with the Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series in Nashville between the Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning this coming Saturday, and at the 2022 NHL entry draft set to be held in Montreal in July. 

If all goes according to plan, NHL Street will begin league play this summer, with youth sports experience company RCX Sports, which also works with the NFL and MLB, providing support by helping market the program, organizing tournaments and events, and supplying members with uniforms and equipment. 

When all you need is a stick, ball, and some friends, street hockey could become the best way for prospective fans to fall in love with hockey at a young age. 

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