It took less than three years after Wayne Gretzky’s trade to the Los Angeles Kings before I bought my first stick and unsteadily lapped around an ice rink. The Great One unquestionably influenced how Southern California opened up to hockey, and surely Bill Foley and the NHL hope something similar will happen to local youth now that Vegas finally has a major pro team to champion. But what’s here for them in this desert town? Currently, there are two ice rinks—Las Vegas Ice Center on the west side and Sobe Ice Arena at Fiesta Rancho casino in North Las Vegas—that accommodate Vegas’ lone youth hockey league, the Nevada Storm. Las Vegas Ice Center offers Learn to Skate and Learn to Play Hockey 123 programs (which begin October 10 and 11, respectively). From there, prospective players can join the Storm’s house league, then competitive travel teams, followed by the Las Vegas Storm junior team (whose season starts with games October 6-8).
Gabe Gauthier, hockey director for the Storm, says buzz is building with the NHL team coming and more people discovering the Ice Center rink. Also, “kids are wearing their Storm apparel at school, and other kids are asking questions.” He adds that interest hasn’t quite warranted an expansion of the youth league yet, but “once the [NHL] team gets going and starts practicing, you’ll see it more. It’s a little tough at the moment, especially with rink still being built.” He’s referring to the NHL team’s forthcoming two-rink practice facility, slated to open next summer at Downtown Summerlin—and expected to sell a lot more sticks and skating passes to kids.
And for those who prefer wheels to skates? Youth roller hockey programs are available at both Crystal Palace Skating Center just near Sobe Ice Arena and Las Vegas Roller Hockey Center at Commercial Center, with rinks dotting parks around the Valley for neighborhood scrimmages. “I’d love to see roller hockey come back,” Gauthier says. “It’s a good alternative.”