Pop quiz time: name a player in the National Hockey League (NHL) who was born in the state of Tennessee.
Think about it for a second.
Yep, turns out there are zero.
But at Cool Sports Knoxville, staff and instructors are introducing the next generation of East Tennessee hockey players to the game they love, via the Little Preds Learn To Play Program.
Hockey director KJ Voorhees said interest in the sport has piqued more kids' interest due to the Predators' deep playoff run.
"This has been great for us," Voorhees said. "The further they go, the better it's going to be for our program."
The Little Preds just went through eight weeks of camp. Kids ages four through eight learned about skating and stick-handling.
Six-year-old Piper Ging picked up the game from her brother. She got a grasp of the fundamentals, learning how to handle her hockey stick and bend her knees in her stance.
"It's fun to get the pucks in the net with the goalies," Piper said.
Carson McClure, also six years old, took up hockey with an emphasis on playing hard. He even got into a little scrum with a camp-mate during drills.
"When I play hard, I really want to focus on the puck," Carson said. "I really want to be like a champion. I'm really confident on the puck and really focused on the puck."
Voorhees, a former Ice Bears player and coach, said it's important to see young children put on the pads, to keep the tradition of hockey alive in East Tennessee.
"It's exciting to see the next generation of hockey players," Voorhees said. "Believe it or not, Knoxville has a rich tradition of hockey dating back to the '60s, with the Knoxville Knights and Knoxville Cherokees. To have some new youth in our program, about 200 kids in a year try the game of hockey, it's exciting."
Each kid gets about $300 worth of equipment to keep, courtesy of the Nashville Predators. The Predators led the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals two games to one on Thursday afternoon.
Voorhees said a new summer session just started; the fall session beginning in August is filling up fast.
That's the goal: rein in more Little Preds to love the game.
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