PASCO — Three-year-old Mackenzie Greer was getting help from her big sister as she clung to white plastic buckets and tried to skate.
Ashley Greer, 8, who plays hockey, got behind her sister and pushed Mackenzie and the buckets along the ice during a Sunday public skate session at Pasco's TRAC ice rink.
Meanwhile, some young boys sporting hockey skates raced each other up and down the length of the rink, while teens chatted and children got into snow angel positions on the ice.
Ashley and Mackenzie's father, Toby Greer, said it was Mackenzie's first day ever on the ice, joining the rest of her family, all of whom play hockey.
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Greer, of Pasco, said he started playing hockey when the Tri-Cities Coliseum, now called the Toyota Center, opened in the late 1980s. Now, hockey is a year-round sport for his family.
Greer and his wife, Lisa, play hockey on Tactical Girth, a co-ed team, and Greer is an assistant coach for Ashley's team.
Ashley, who wore bright pink laces on her hockey skates, said she prefers defense to serving as goalie. She is one of the back-up goalies for her team, the Tri-City Dragons, one of the mites teams for the Tri-City Amateur Hockey Association.
Ashley said her job is "to keep the goalie bored."
Greer said hockey has helped teach Ashley sportsmanship and how to interact with other children.
Dominick Didzerekis, 8, of Richland, was one of the boys who effortlessly zipped across the rink.
Dominick said he started skating at 11 months old. Now he can zip across the ice at 17 mph, which is what he clocked at a recent skating camp.
"I just kind of like the breeze that you get when you skate," he said.
Dominick said he likes playing right wing for the Junior Tri-City Americans squirt division rep team of the amateur hockey association. Sometimes he can get the puck after the face-off.
"Sometimes I score, sometimes I don't," he said.
Dominick said he enjoys public skate sessions because of the people he meets.
People should keep trying to skate, even after they fall for the first time, he advised.
Tyler Nelson, 7, of Richland, explained, "I can do everything good."
But Tyler, who plays hockey, said he prefers to skate forward because he can go faster that way.
Tyler's older brother, Chris Nelson, 10, said they frequently skate. Chris also plays hockey.
Friends Destanie Wantz, 15, of Pasco, Cassidee Alderman, 13, of West Richland and Jordyn Sanders, 14, of Pasco, were chatting as they skated around the rink.
Destanie said the three met while watching the Tri-City Americans play at the Toyota Center.
People should try skating, even if they may be slightly scared, she said.
After all, Jordyn said, skating is fairly easy once someone gets the hang of it.
Gary Watkins of Richland was watching his sons Grant, 6, and Drew, 4, conquer the ice in hockey skates. Watkins said the two boys started skating this year.
"They just love it," he said.
Grant plays on a amateur hockey association team, Watkins said. Both also are taking Learn-to-Skate lessons at the Toyota Arena in Kennewick.
Going to the public skate is a good activity to get the boys out of the house, Watkins said.
Luke, 1, stuck to the sidelines with his dad. Watkins said they might get Luke on the ice next year.
About 20 people were skating during the Sunday afternoon session.
Debbie Didzerekis, public relations liaison for the Tri-City Amateur Hockey Association, said the number will peak at up to 150 during January.
The association's hockey teams sponsor public sessions to help raise money for tournaments, she said. And 10 percent of all the proceeds from public skate go to the association's scholarship fund, which helps children who otherwise couldn't afford it play hockey.
Public skate times and prices:
* At TRAC Ice Rink, in the Pepsi Pavilion at 6600 Burden Blvd., Pasco: Sundays in December from 4 to 6 p.m. Cost is $5 per person or $10 for a family of up to four people. Skate rental is included. Public sessions are held from October through March. For more information, go to www.traconline.com/ice-rink.php.* At Toyota Arena at the Toyota Center, 7016 Grandridge Blvd., in Kennewick: go to yourtoyotaarena.com for public skate times in December. Cost is $6 per person for admission and $2 for skate rental. Public sessions are held year-round.