EXETER, N.H. – Bauer Hockey and Hockey Canada announced today the continued national expansion of The First Shift, the new learn-to-play program designed to introduce families to hockey in a fun, welcoming and practical way. With the program currently in approximately 40 markets across Canada, the two organizations will execute additional programs in communities that will be selected through an open application process.

“The First Shift is changing the way hockey is offered because it’s so much more than a learn-to-play program. With a welcoming environment, a fun on-ice trial and an easy transition program, it’s proven to be a successful model for kids to try the game in a way that easily fits into families’ lives,” said Rich Wuerthele, Executive Vice President, Bauer Hockey. “As a result, 86 percent of parents re-enrolled their child to continue playing. This success has created significant interest among the thousands of minor hockey associations who want to add The First Shift to their program.”

A component of Bauer Hockey’s global Grow the Game initiative, The First Shift is changing the way hockey is offered to help achieve the company’s goal of adding 1 million new players to the game by 2022. This model, which has been incorporated into approximately 40 associations already, has created a new path for children across Canada to be introduced to hockey and try the game in a convenient and fun way. The programs are built to inspire new hockey families with a welcoming environment and expand program options to meet various lifestyle and commitment preferences.

The cost to enroll a child in The First Shift is $199, and kids ages 6-10 who have never played hockey are eligible to sign up. Registration for this six-week program includes head-to-toe equipment, enrollment for six on-ice sessions and a welcome event hosted by Bauer Hockey and Hockey Canada. At the welcome event, participants are expertly-fitted by BAUER trainers, receive their gear, learn how to put their equipment on and hear from instructors about the program’s on-ice goals.

“It’s exciting to see this initiative grow into the national program it has become today,” said Tom Renney, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hockey Canada. “Hockey is truly Canada’s game. For the elite player, we’re not changing anything, but for new families interested in trying the game, we’re adding new, convenient options built around fun. Every minor hockey association looking to grow their registration should apply because this is the model to grow our game and ensure we’re offering something for everyone.”

There are approximately 3,500 minor hockey associations in Canada. Associations receiving The First Shift program will benefit by receiving the tools, resources and expertise they need to grow their program and welcome and retain more families to their organization. The process to apply for The First Shift program is currently open, and all associations that meet the criteria are encouraged to submit an application for their community. There is no cost to apply.

The criteria for selection include a commitment to the philosophy of the new program and providing ice, a community space for the welcome event and personnel to support the initiative. Additionally, associations must agree to add the next step for The First Shift participants who want to advance from this program but are not yet ready to sign up for a full season. These mid-level offerings must be in line with the parameters for The First Shift, including a reasonable time commitment and affordable cost, as well as the convenience of a set time and place each week.

“The game of hockey has been great to me, but most importantly it’s taught me valuable life lessons about leadership, the importance of teamwork and the benefit of hard work,” said Mark Messier, who partnered with BAUER for its Grow the Game initiative that includes The First Shift. “When I go to The First Shift programs I can see the excitement in the kids as they put on the gear and get on the ice. They’re having fun, making friends and will no doubt develop many of the same life-long values I learned from the game.”

Additional information on The First Shift, including the application, is available at The deadline for associations to apply is March 15, 2015 for fall 2015 and winter 2016 programs. The total number of new associations accepted through the application process will be determined based on program resources.