Roscoe native Josh McArdle signing with the Rockford IceHogs speaks well not only of McArdle but of the impact of the youth hockey programs in Rockford.
For McArdle and for so many local youngsters their hockey start began in the Park District’s “Learn to Skate” program. Many of these kids are typically around five years old. As they grow older they gain hockey instruction and play on teams in the youth hockey program, with the Rockford Hockey Club or for the Junior IceHogs. Programs that are all thriving today.
” In the fall and winter we have close to 400 kids in our Junior IceHogs program,” says Don Walker the Rockford Park District’s Hockey Director. “The hockey club has another 150 to 170 kids playing travel hockey, so it’s strong.”
In the summer there is a wide range of camps, clinics and tournaments going on. McArdle is quick to credit the youth programs for contributing to his success at Brown University and now as a pro.
“It was an incredible experience (participating in the youth programs). I think it prepared me well. I would put a lot of emphasis on what Rockford did for me.”
McArdle’s contract with the IceHogs has everyone involved with the youth hockey programs beaming with pride.
“It’s extremely exciting! We’ve known Josh since he was 11 years old,” says the park district’s general manager of facilities Scott Burfott. “It’s a feather in the cap for the city of Rockford and our hockey program.”
“It’s a proud moment for the whole program,” says Walker. “It’s been teamwork to put this in place. We try to explain to people that you start out in Learn To Skate and you go up through the process. We’ve got a pyramid built and a path to go and Josh followed that path.”
The coaches and staff members in the youth hockey programs will most definitely use McArdle’s success as an example for young hockey players and their families of what’s possible.
“I have used him as an example already,” says youth hockey coach Frank Casalena. “I will continue to do so. He’s made the path. It’s possible and now kids khow, ‘Hey I can do this is if I really want to.’ That’s the thing you have to really want it to do it and Josh really wanted it.”
For more information on the youth hockey programs in Rockford go to www.rockfordparkdistrict.org.