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Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Lessons learned on the ice

February 02. 2014 9:24PM

I guess I am a hockey mom now, at least for 12 weeks. After months of him begging to play, we decided to start my first-grader in the Manchester Regional Youth Hockey Association's Learn to Skate Program. About $400 in fees and equipment later, he was on his butt on the ice begging me to take him home. No way, buddy.

But that was just the first day. MRYHA, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, is a well-oiled machine of mostly volunteers. I am truly impressed with how quickly Learn to Skate, led by Mike Williamson, gets kids up and moving on the ice at the West Side Arena.

Boys and girls can start as young as 4 years old. After mastering the skating, they can move up to Learn to Play Hockey, and if they stick with it, the Flames travel or development programs.

There are two Learn to Skate programs each season. Each is 12 weeks long with two, one-hour practices a week of fun, quick-moving activities and obstacle courses on the ice. The time commitment and practice times (5 p.m. on Friday and 8 a.m. on Sunday) were intimidating at first, but just become a part of the routine.

The West Side Arena has nice heaters for the spectator area and floor covering to keep the athletes' skates in good shape, but the facility could use some TLC. I look forward to finding out more about the potential improvements that could be made as part of a public-private partnership to renovate the facility. The current 12-week Learn to Skate price is $175, so I hope the renovation plans don't raise the cost of playing too much. MRYHA Public Relations Director Eric Sylvain said, "prices for next year's programs are not set yet, but our focus is always to be affordable."

For more information, visit

Matters of the heart

You may leave the house Friday and think Valentine's Day has come a week early.

More than 181 schools and businesses across the state — 31 of them in Manchester — have committed to wear red on Feb. 7th to celebrate National Wear Red Day, the American Heart Association's 10th annual celebration designed to bring more awareness to heart disease, the number-one killer of women.

The Devine Millimet building at 111 Amherst St. (it once was the Post Office) will even be wearing red for the entire month of February. The attorneys' office will be changing its sign spotlight and other outdoor lighting to make the entire building glow red.

American Heart Association Director of Communications Audra Burns said any organizations and individuals who would like to join the effort can learn more and download materials at

The real Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, is on a Friday this year, which may put more pressure on couples to do something romantic. If you are looking for something different to dazzle your date, why not try the second annual Valentine's Day Couple's Yoga at Fortitude Health and Training?

The evening begins at 6:15 p.m. with 45 minutes of very relaxing yoga followed by an hour of social time with champagne, chocolate and light appetizers.

Fortitude instructors Danielle Bicknell and Kyle Purinton will lead the class for a per-couple cost of $25 for Fortitude members and $30 for non-members. Sure beats spending a fortune at a restaurant.

To sign up, visit or call 854-2002.

Self-defense class

I broke a board with my bare hand last week, and it was awesome.

Fourth-degree black belt Todd Bedard said he has women break boards in his Woman P.O.W.E.R. Self Defense classes to make them realize how strong they really are. He said if we could break a board with the palm of our hand, we could probably break an attacker's nose too.

I hope I never have to try it, but at least I feel better prepared if I am ever put in that situation. Bedard, along with fellow martial artists Brenda Finnegan and Geoff Conaway, taught our group of about 30 women some smart, efficient and unexpected ways to free ourselves from an attacker. Have you ever tried sticking your thumb in the little space at the base of your throat? Hurts, doesn't it?

The free class was sponsored by the generous all-female team at Hearthside Realty. Realtors meet strangers at strange houses on a regular basis, so they held the class to prepare themselves and others.

Bedard has 26 years of experience in the martial arts. You can find out more about his self-defense courses on Facebook by searching Woman POWER self defense.

NH365.ORG Event of the Week

It's New Hampshire's favorite winter fair! The New Hampshire Farm and Forest Expo takes place at the Radisson Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to more than 100 agriculture-related exhibitors sharing and selling their products and expertise, both days are filled with educational seminars, including backyard maple sugaring and a discussion about black bears with independent wildlife biologist and noted New Hampshire author Ben Kilham.

There is also a Kid Zone with face painting and demonstrations and an Equine Discovery Room featuring a live horse.

Tickets are $7 for anyone older than 16 years old. Bring two non-perishable food items for the New Hampshire Food Bank and receive $1 off.

For more information on this and other fun things to do around here during the dead of winter, visit

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