My son’s been holding a hockey stick in his little hands since he started crawling. Sure, it was a tiny stick. Sure, all he did was swat at balls while lying on his stomach, but it was clear he was developing a passion for the game. And as both Canadians and hockey fans, it was our parental duty (moral obligation, some might say) to encourage him. We took him to the local arena to watch games. We played one-on-one in the driveway after daycare. We enrolled him in skating lessons. The only thing we couldn’t do was sign him up for a league, he was still too young.
So when his birthday rolled around, we had a good idea the gift would be hockey related. He already owned three different sized nets and a bunch of sticks, pads, and pucks, but we wanted something that would stoke his passion for the game and hone his skills. After a lengthy search, we came across the $23 Franklin Sports NHL Mini Hockey Passer on Amazon. Basically, it’s a pitching machine for pucks, or 2-inch foam balls in this case. Load it up with 10, and it shoots them across the room. Your kid can then fire more one-timers on net than Jaromir Jagr in the mid-90s.
Now at first, all my son wanted to do was aim it around the room like a giant cannon. Which was totally understandable, it’s perfect for that. But after I showed him how to set it up and practice his shot, he couldn’t get enough. I had so much fun watching him that I couldn’t help but want in on the action too. He quickly learned how to turn it on/off and reload it ⏤ essentially, rendering me unnecessary ⏤ and now spends his afternoons practicing one-timers, ball control, and receiving passes. Sometimes, he’ll even point it at himself in the net so he can go full Carey Price and try to stop all the balls. Since they’re made of foam, I’m not worried about him getting hurt.
If I had any complaint, it’s that the ball holder is removable. I don’t know what happens if you stick an arm or foreign object in the tube while it’s on, but the fact that you can worries me. Thankfully, neither my son nor his younger brother have tried yet. The motor’s also a bit weak, but considering it’s firing balls at a 4-year-old, it’s probably for the best. Then again, that coupled with the fact that it’s shoot foam balls does limit the age range. Luckily, Franklin Sports also makes a larger $30 version with real hockey balls for when your kid graduates to the big leagues. There’s no doubt we’ll be picking one up in a few years.
For $23 bucks, the value we’ve gotten out of the Franklin Passer is impressive. I’ve seen clear improvement in my son’s reaction times and coordination since he’s been using it. And it’s fun to see his confidence grow as his skills develop. He’s becoming especially adept at lifting the balls to the top corners, just like the pros. Hopefully, by the time he does join a real team next year, he’ll be firing off so many knucklepucks the other team won’t know what hit them.