After more than 40 years away, the Chicago Blackhawks are coming back to practice at Oak Park’s Ridgeland Common ice rink.

Well, not quite. But legendary former Blackhawks player and coach Denis Savard will set up shop at Ridgeland Common on Nov. 8, teaching Oak Park’s youth hockey players skills on the same sheet of ice where the team briefly practiced in the 1960s.

It’s part of the Blackhawks’ youth hockey program, which partners with teams and rinks in the area. The clinics, to be hosted by former players and legends, are a new branch of the Hawks’ outreach program this year. Ridgeland will be the second rink of about 10 to 15 in the Chicago area which won the opportunity, according to Annie Camins, director of youth hockey for the Blackhawks.

“We just thought it would be a great way to get out to all of our rink partners,” Camins said. “It’s a great way to touch base with our kids.”

The Park District of Oak Park’s youth travel hockey program, the Oak Park Huskies, will get to work with Savard. The former coach will work with kids as old as 12.

“It’ll be kind of up to Savard what he wants to do,” Camins said, though she didn’t expect him to subject them to a pro-level workout.

The kids will get a jersey and will have a chance to get an autograph from Savard after the practice, but there won’t be autographs available for the general public.

Dishing out equipment

The Blackhawks have also helped the park district’s youth hockey program buy 40 sets of discounted hockey equipment this year, the park district said.

By selling and raffling off sets of free tickets from the team, the park district raised money to buy sets of equipment from an organization called One Goal that’s aiming to help budding players make the first steps onto the ice.

The equipment sets, which are for kids from 3 to 8 years old and include almost everything except a set of skates, have all been dished out, according to rink program supervisor Mike Lushniak.

“Pretty much all the good athletes in the U.S. go and play football, baseball, or basketball,” Lushniak said. “USA Hockey [one of One Goal’s sponsors] is trying to encourage people to get involved in hockey, and it’s in little rinks here like Oak Park where it starts.”

If the kids return the equipment at the end of the hockey season in spring, they won’t be charged for anything. However, if they don’t return it or it comes back badly damaged, they’ll be charged what the park district paid for the equipment: $75.

Next season, Lushniak said the park district is hoping to buy more sets of equipment to expand the program by raffling off more tickets and buying gear with the proceeds.

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Ben was Wednesday Journal's crime, parks, and River Forest reporter, until he kept bugging us enough to promote him. Now he's managing two of Wednesday Journal's sister papers in the city, Chicago Journal...