Five ice hockey teams at the H-F Ice Arena brought home top prizes in tournaments. From the youngest to the more advanced, the teams beat competitors in games at Chicago, St. Louis and Madison, Wisconsin, in January. The teams are part of HF Vikings Youth Hockey Association, serving 126 players ages 5 through 13.
Five ice hockey teams at the H-F Ice Arena brought home top prizes in tournaments.
From the youngest to the more advanced, the teams beat competitors in games at Chicago, St. Louis and Madison, Wisconsin, in January. The teams are part of HF Vikings Youth Hockey Association, serving 126 players ages 5 through 13.
The tournaments were outside the regular 18-game sequence the hockey players compete in through February in the Northwest Hockey League, which is supported by the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks.
H-F’s PeeWee 1 team, ages 12 and under, skated against a team in a higher bracket and took first place honors at the Mad City Winter Classic in Madison.
The Squirt 1 team, ages 10 and under, took first place in the Mad City Winter Classic.
The Bantam team, ages 14 and under, brought home the first place trophy in the Chicago Winter Classic.
Of the two teams competing in the Ice Blast in St. Louis, the Squirt 3 team, ages 10 and under, took first place, and the Mite 1 team, ages 8 and under, took second place.
To get to these victories, the skaters dedicate hours on the ice reviewing fundamentals and playing short games. Teams are at the ice arena at least three times a week.
Parents are known to dedicate September through February to their kids’ involvement in the league, said Marty Will of Homewood who coaches the Mite 1 team that his son, Jackson, 8, plays on.
As a native Texan, Will said his sports were baseball and football. When the area was hit by the 2014 Polar Vortex that put the area into the deep freeze for days on end, Jackson couldn’t go outside, so Will took his son to the ice arena to learn to skate.
Jackson watched the older kids playing hockey and told his dad that’s what he wanted to do. That’s when Jackson got involved with the Dyno-mites team, teaching fundamentals to the youngest hockey skaters ages 4 through 8.
In turn, Will took a three-month adult clinic at the ice arena that taught him the fundamentals of skating and hockey.
Today Will skates in the H-F Ice Arena adult league and on a team in Joliet. He is one of the few parents trained in hockey rules. This year he is head coach of the Mites team.
Jim Riffice of Munster, Indiana, is back skating and coaching on H-F ice. He had skated for the Thornton Fractional South High School team in competition at the H-F ice arena. He’s been involved in the Northwest Hockey League for seven years, first with his daughter, Hannah, and now coaching his son, Benjamyn who is on the PeeWee team.
Both his children started with lessons in the Dyno-mites program, which Riffice said gave them a great foundation for the sport.
“At the end of the day for kids who are younger, it’s learning skills, and the most important part is having fun. If you build the passion and teach them the right way when they’re young, then they don’t want to leave the sport,” Riffice said.
He emphasized that hockey can be a sport for life and he is a perfect example, playing on adult leagues and pointing out that many of his best friends are from his time on the ice.
Will said the kids get a lot from hockey.
“The amount of endurance and balance that’s necessary to be a relevant player is unlike any sport. It’s a skills sport, but it’s also based on skating ability and speed, too. Basically, the best players can do those skills at a high rate of speed. In hockey, speed is a major factor and if you can develop the skills needed — shooting, stick handling, passing — at your top speed that’s how you become good in hockey,” he explained.