As a kid growing up in Minnesota, Canes defenseman Justin Faulk never had any trouble finding a rink or a place to play hockey games.
Now, he wants to help other kids learn to play.
Faulk and the Canes are joining the Polar Ice House in sponsoring two programs created to help grow youth hockey in North Carolina -- Learn to Play, and First Goal. The First Goal program is a four-week course offering an introduction to hockey at minimal expense. After completing that program, the kids then move to Learn to Play, an eight-week course in which the fundamentals of the sport are taught.
"I think it's good to give back and allow kids an opportunity to play the game," Faulk said Saturday. "I think getting as many people as possible into hockey is a goal a lot of players want to help achieve. It's nice to see the numbers growing across the United States on a yearly basis and I want to do my part to help that."
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Faulk, a native of South St. Paul, Minn., has represented the U.S. in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, World Championships and the World Junior Championship. He also won an NCAA championship at Minnesota-Duluth.
"It's the norm from where I'm from to be playing hockey," Faulk said. "At the same time I know it's an expensive sport. It's pretty tough on parents sometimes in that way.
"Just to be able to give that opportunity to someone to play, who may not be able to, or try to encourage someone to join who might be wanting to, is the goal."
The players in both programs will receive a Justin Faulk T-shirt upon "graduation." Those completing the Learn to Play program also receive youth hockey sticks.
After completing Learn to Play, participants will be invited to join the Hurricanes House League, open to players ages 5-18. The Hurricanes House League (www.phhl.org) is designed to provide a quality competitive player experience, and to develop standards of player safety.
"It's something I wanted to be a part of," Faulk said of the programs. "Just to give someone that opportunity to try the game. If they enjoy it, maybe things go from there and it's something they won't forget."