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Mighty Ducks' Bucks to Help Boost County Youth Hockey

March 29, 1993|ROBYN NORWOOD

ANAHEIM — Professional hockey's arrival in Anaheim is expected to give a boost to youth hockey in Orange County, with the Walt Disney Co. pledging support for local programs.

"We are going to be very, very pro-active in youth hockey," said Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, whose interest in the game spurred the entertainment giant's entry into professional sports. Eisner has a teen-age son, Anders, who plays at Glacial Garden Ice Arena in Anaheim, and Eisner has for some time been a financial supporter of USA Hockey, the national governing body for amateur hockey.

"We want to encourage and be very involved in the community and youth hockey," Eisner said. "The players that we sign, amongst other obligations on the ice, will have some obligations in the community to encourage the expansion of youth hockey in Orange County specifically, if not in all of Los Angeles."

About 450 youngsters are involved in hockey programs at the Glacial Garden rink, which will be the site of some Duck practices next season if negotiations are successful. In addition, there is a smaller but still sizable youth contingent playing at Ice Capades Chalet in Costa Mesa.

But without financial assistance, hockey is a sport that only is accessible for children from families with a lot of disposable income. A hockey outfit--pants, pads, sweater, helmet, gloves--for a 10-year-old can run $250-$300. Skates start around $50, but models designed for expert skaters hit $300. Then there is the cost of ice time. A young player's share of that expense can reach $900 a season.

Disney's commitment is altruistic, but not purely.

"It comes back around," said Tony Tavares, Disney Sports Enterprises president, who said the team will make a "big commitment" to youth hockey through annual fund-raisers and perhaps charitable contributions. "The more kids are involved, the more become fans."

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