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Ice Hockey Teams Give Young Players an Edge

Children, age 7 and up, are competing on rinks around the Valley. Girls are signing up too.


Little kids are joining ice hockey teams, including boys and girls as young as 7, 8 and 9 years old. What are they doing in such a dangerous sport, you may ask?

"I had the same reservations as anyone," said Mark Blatchley, father of a 9-year-old LaCanada elementary school boy. Which is why Blatchley put his son Matthew into a program at Pickwick Ice Skating Center in Burbank that emphasized "skills training, not the body-blocking stuff."

In any event, the family had run out of other team sports to try. "We tried soccer, baseball, etc.," said Blatchley, "but Matthew is so active that there wasn't enough movements there. We tried ice hockey school and the youth league and he really enjoyed it."

As for Matthew himself, he is gaining some confidence two years into his career as a weekend ice warrior. "In the beginning it felt funny, but you get better and better," he said.

In the Blatchleys' case, ice hockey was the dad's idea. But in the Scott family of Burbank, the deciding factor was a movie. "The Mighty Ducks" kept the attention of Bobby Scott, 8 years old. "I looked at those movies [videos of the original and the sequel] over and over again--and those kids were having fun!"

So Bobby is a member of a "Squirt" team, which is part of the same in-house league at Pickwick. Being a "Squirt" is more of a distinction than it sounds, because, at 8, Bobby should be on one of the "Mites" teams. But he's so good he gets to play with the 9- and 10-year-olds.

The next age brackets up are "Peewee," "Bantams" and for the grizzled 15- to 17-year-olds, there's the "Midgets" team.


Another youth hockey program, which is also divided into age-appropriate groups, is "The California Golden Bears." Based in Burbank, the Bear teams play on rinks in Culver City and Pasadena as well as the Iceoplex in North Hills and Pickwick in Burbank.

Eu Hee Han, a 15-year-old player in the Golden Bears league, is also one of a small percentage of girls on the various teams that play at Pickwick. She said that it was a novel that gave her the idea of putting on ice skates.

Han, a Flintridge Preparatory School sophomore who was a figure skater, read "Who Put the Hair in My Toothbrush" by Jerry Spinelli (Little Brown). "It was about a girl who liked ice hockey--a girl who was having trouble with her brother," she said. That was two years ago, and while it is unclear whether the sport has solved her sibling rivalry problems, Han said she enjoys the competition.

These days, boys and girls can start ice staking as young as age 3. At least that's the age kids can be enrolled in "Mom & Me" sessions at the Pickwick Center Skating School. As kids get older, they are showing up for public skating hours--at $5 per session--at rinks around the Valley and Ventura County.


* FOR BEGINNERS: Registration for the 1996 fall season is open for boys and girls who want to compete on teams for kids 8 and under and teams for kids 9-17 in the Beginners Youth Hockey League. Teams compete Saturdays and Sundays at Pickwick Ice Skating Center, 1001 Riverside Drive, Burbank, for the 25-week season. The fee is $525 for the season. Goalies play for free. Call (818) 846-0035.

* ON THE ROAD: The California Golden Bears offer traveling youth hockey teams for boys and girls, elementary through high-school age. The organization is based in Burbank, with weekend games played at rinks in the Valley, Pasadena and Culver City. For information call (213) 255-7367.

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