SYDNEY – A kids learn-to-skate hockey program in Cape Breton is making strides on the ice.

More than 300 kids are registered and they're getting a chance to play Canada's favourite pastime at no cost.

The game of hockey is a national pastime and a Canadian tradition, but it’s not the cheapest to play.

Fees and the cost of gear for some is in the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

"The cheapest gear you can get at Canadian Tire is $129.99 a set -- that's without your skates," said parent Jami Murphy."So, if you're on a lower budget and you can come get your gear and your skating and your coaching and some fun for free, that's pretty good."

Siobhan Schreinert is in her first year volunteering with the program.

"I played hockey from a very young age and I remember my dad bringing me every day," said Schreinert.

For novice skaters hitting the ice at the Canada Games Complex on Monday – money is the least of their worries.

"I love it; It's unreal," said Schreinert. "We don't have a lot of stuff like this in Ontario where I'm from. It's a big opportunity for kids who can't afford to come out. The smile on their faces is unreal."

Nick Bonnar is the co-ordinator for this learn-to-skate program, which offers kids free ice time and gear through donations and grants.

They have a storage room that is filled with hundreds of sets of new and used equipment.

They’ve already given out more than sixty sets.

"The program this year jumped up to a couple hundred kids," Bonnar said. "We were at a hundred or more and now we're at 325 kids, involving almost 25 communities, New Waterford, Northside, Main-a-Dieu, all the way over to Glace Bay."

Many minor hockey programs are also allowing kids to get involved at little or no cost. Both the New Waterford and Glace Bay minor hockey associations offered free registration this year.

For this program it’s all about learning the basics and preparing for the future

"It's a big thing to have that chance to come out and see if you like it," Bonnar said. "If you like it we can put you in hockey gear, if they stay it's great, if not they can give the gear to someone else in their family."

Bonnar says he’s already heard from alumni who have graduated to playing minor hockey.