My visit to Fifth Third Arena in Chicago

Hi, it’s Heather from Skate Helper. I am so excited to be able to finally share a video on Monday August 3, 2020, that we shot at the Fifth Third Arena in Chicago this past January.

How this project came together

Last year, I reached out to Annie Camins the Senior Executive Director, Fan Development for the Chicago Blackhawks and asked if I could visit the arena to see the First Stride program in action and to shoot a video showing how they use the Skate Helper.

Annie said yes and off I went in January to the windy city. Annie and her team organized everything. They were extremely welcoming and very professional. I quickly realized how progressive the Blackhawks organization is.

I was blown away!

The arena and the First Stride program are first class all the way. Prior to Covid, the First Stride program had 360 Chicago public school students visiting the Fifth Third Arena every week.  The programming for First Stride starts off by welcoming the students to the arena where they are then escorted into the locker room. In the locker room their name is proudly displayed on the cubby along with a First Stride shirt, ice skates and gloves.

After skating the students spend time in the classroom learning a S.T.E.M program. The day I visited, the students they were building robots. The students are also provided a healthy snack and a school bus ride back to school. This is all paid for by the Chicago Blackhawks. This program is so impressive and the kids love it.

First Stride is a progressive community program that engages and inspires local youth. In my opinion, this program should be rolled out to all communities where the NHL has teams.

Chicago sports fans are serious and they really love their teams

I live in Canada and had visited Chicago before but I never had an experience like this. Chicago sports fans are serious and they really love their teams. I was fortunate enough to attend a game at the United Center and it was unlike any other NHL game I’ve been to. I remember the game vividly as Predators goalie Pekka Rinne scored a goal on an empty net. Chicago lost 5-2. Chicago has some of the BEST fans anywhere and the best stadium food. The energy in the building played like a game 7 of the playoffs.


I want to shout out a HUGE thank you to the two women leaders at the Chicago Blackhawks who made the video happen. Annie Camins Senior Executive Director, Fan Development for the Chicago Blackhawks and Andrea Hahn – the General Manager of the Fifth Third Arena – you both are truly trailblazers working in the NHL. Thanks for sharing your positive feedback on the skate helper. I am extremely proud that the Skate Helper is part of this important community initiative.

Inspiration through sport is what First Stride is all about and I think that’s what the Chicago Blackhawks is all about. Get your Hockey Hit this upcoming week! Go Blackhawks!

Let’s Celebrate Canada Day and 4th of July

Hi, it’s Heather from Skate Helper.  I hope you and your families are safe and well.

To my Canadian and American customers

I am looking forward to the reopening of your ice arenas and getting kids and families back on the ice.

If there has ever been a Canada Day and Independence Day to celebrate it’s this one for sure. After all, 2020 hasn’t been a great year for anyone on the planet. Sure, we can still fire up the grill and figure out where to watch fireworks from a distance, but most of us could really use a good celebration with our extended family and friends.


We have so much to be grateful for. Both Canada and the US are two of the most beautiful countries in the world. We share one of the world’s longest, unprotected border. As both countries are focused on past transgressions, I believe we will make positive change. We know we can all be better, kinder more inclusive people.

We are in this together

We can do so much in our own communities. It’s time to participate and get out into your community, say hello to your neighbour and help make the change.  2020 has definitely taught us that we are in this together.  We need one another more than ever before.

Canadians and Americans love the same sports, movies, music and freedoms. We cherish our freedom to choose where to live, where to worship, how to dress, who to love, where to go to school, and where to work. Hopefully, one day soon we will be back travelling freely within our two great nations.

As we celebrate our countries birthdays please take time out to connect with your family, friends, and neighbours in your community.

We are stronger together!  Stay Safe and Be Kind.

Happy Canada Day and Happy 4th of July

From Heather at Skate Helper.