The time has arrived to gear up for the upcoming youth ice hockey season. Online registration will be available through Sunday, Oct. 3.

The Maine Coast Skaters Association plans to field 11 teams with more than 175 players for the 2010-11 season. Boys and girls ages three through 18 may sign-up.

Hockey programs available this fall include:

Learn To Play Ice Hockey — For children of all ages interested but who have never played hockey and might not be ready to commit to a team. Skilled players and coaches will help novice skaters learn about basic hockey skating, stickhandling and general skills.

Atoms — For players ages 3-6 will be Saturday mornings at the Midcoast Recreation Center in Rockport. The veteran staff of volunteer Atoms coaches primarily focus on getting young children comfortable on skates. There is plenty of gear available to borrow so youngsters can try the sport without families making the initial financial investment.

Cross Ice Program — For those ages 6-8 playing cross ice format games each week on the home ice at MRC. In December, there will be tryouts for a Travel Mite Team, which will give the older, more experienced players an opportunity to play full ice games against neighboring associations.

Girls — There will be a team for players ages 10 through 16 this season.

In addition to those programs, there are coed teams at the Squirt (ages 9-10), Peewee (ages 11-12), Bantam (ages 13-14) and Midget (ages 15-18) levels.

A development this year is the introduction of the new Skating Development Program (SDP). The focus centers on teaching the best skating skills possible in order to help children learn to love the game of ice hockey. SDP will bring a comprehensive season-long focus on building stronger skating skills among all of our players — with special attention being placed on the youngest. The program will be led by Jesse Simko, an 11-year sports teacher and accomplished high school and junior hockey player who is a student of the Andrews Hockey School in Prince Edward Island.

Registration for all ice hockey programs continues through Sunday, Oct. 3. One can register online at mainecoastskaters.org or in person on community day Oct. 3. from noon to 4 p.m. at MRC. This will be the final chance to register for the ice hockey season which begins on Monday, Oct, 4. Computers will be available for those who need to register and do not have internet access.

The MCSA has scholarships available to assist families in need as well as a considerable collection of equipment available to borrow if needed. An equipment swap and sale is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. to noon at MRC. One can also find used equipment on the gear for sale page at mainecoastskaters.org.

The official kickoff to the season will be Sunday, Oct. 3 when MRC holds its annual community day. There will be open ice time from 3 to 4 p.m. for first-time players and fun for the family, including a cookout, and plenty of free activities for children.

The Maine Coast Skaters Association’s “home ice” is at MRC on Route 90 in Rockport. The youth hockey program has players traveling from many neighboring communities, including Rockland, Thomaston, Lincolnville, Hope, Appleton, Waldoboro, Jefferson, Belfast, Waldo and even from as far as Stockton Springs.

It is the mission of the MCSA to get as many children as possible interested and exposed to ice hockey. The program is designed to serve the needs of both experienced players as well as those who have never tried the sport before with teams that cater to various skill levels.

For more information, go online at mainecoastskaters.org.

VillageSoup sports staff can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at sports@villagesoup.com.