Ice, Ice Baby

kansas may not have ice, but it has ice hockey.

Even though hockey is not the most common sport nor is it played in public high schools, many compete in the game outside of school.

Ice hockey, nicknamed the fastest game on earth, is a sport not offered in most high schools, but still played through club teams outside of school. Four boys from West play through such clubs. Senior Tanner Hadenchuk has been playing hockey for 10 years.

“I have family that plays: my uncle, grandpa and great-grandpa all played, so they put me on skates as soon as I could walk,” Hadenchuk said. He plays defense for his team, the Kansas City Stars high school Metro team.

Hockey is played on an ice rink with five players on the ice at once from each team, plus the goalie. There are three periods in the game; the first and second periods are 15 minutes long with no stoppage and the third is 12 minutes long with stoppage.

“Hockey is a fast-paced, contact sport. My favorite part is the contact, hitting, fights and the adrenaline rush,” Hadenchuk said.

Freshman Adam Leligdon and junior Hunter Ryan also play for the KC Stars, but on different teams within the club.

“I learned how to skate at age three. I took a hockey class with six year olds. I wanted to do it but mainly it was my dad’s influence. My dad played hockey starting from age three and he trained me to like hockey,” Leligdon said. Leligdon is the goalie for his team, a select team.

“I play select, it’s the best players in House and they play against the best of other teams,” Leligdon said.

Although many people’s knowledge of  hockey extends only to the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s spectacular underdog story, there is a lot more to the sport.

“My favorite part of hockey is probably the intensity of the games. It’s not stop and start, stop and start. It’s always going. The reason why I like hockey is because you have to be well-rounded. You need to be fast. You have to have finesse but you also have to be strong and be able to take a hit,” Leligdon said.

Because he is the goalie, a position with different requirements than others, Leligdon has to wear special equipment.

“It’s very expensive, for me especially. Mine are only $600, but goalie pads can cost up to $1,000,” Leligdon said.

Even though goalie pads may be the extreme, equipment is expensive, even for field players.

 “It’s very expensive. A season is around $2,000. Then equipment for everything good is around $2,500,” Ryan said. Ryan plays for the KC Stars as a right winger, a position where a lot of goals are scored from.

For Ryan, it took some time to learn the sport. He started playing about 10 years ago, on the request of a friend.  He’s been playing since then.

“It took a long time to learn actually. To become a natural player it took about a year or longer,” Ryan said.

For Ryan, the people are an important part of hockey, in addition to the sport itself.

“I just love bonding with the team, and I just love going to practice and just everyone involved with it,” Ryan said.

Hockey, as do other sports, requires a big time commitment. Especially if the team travels, like junior Thomas Flick’s team does.

“I play on Jets High School Hockey Team in the Midwest league, which has teams from Nebraska and Iowa. We travel mostly every weekend,” Flick said.

Flick has been playing hockey since he was four years old. His dad used to play, so it only seemed natural that Flick would give it a try.

“It’s as difficult as any other sport to learn, but skating is the biggest challenge. My favorite part is probably when you make a really big hit or score a goal. I like the high intensity and you have to think quickly on your feet,” Flick said.

Like any other sport, only practice can make perfect.

“We have practice twice a week for an hour but I get there early. Then games normally are an hour and a half,” Ryan said.

There are opportunities to play hockey in college and beyond.

“There are different kinds, D-1 then some D-2 and then club teams. I would like to play but we’ll see,” Ryan said.

Leligdon and Flick also see playing hockey beyond high school as a goal.

“My dream would be to keep on playing hockey and playing in college would be cool,” Leligdon said.

“I do hope to play hockey as I get older, maybe in college,” Flick said.

Kansas City used to have a professional hockey team from 1974-1976 called the KC Scouts.

“I really think that Kansas City deserves an NHL team and it’s something that I would love to see and I’m sure many others would like to see too,” Leligdon said.

While only Rockhurst High School has a school hockey team, it is still a pretty popular sport in the KC area.

“I think that people underestimate the amount of hockey that’s in Kansas City. It really is a big community but people don’t understand that. Hockey is underestimated and overshadowed by other sports,” Leligdon said.

For Hadenchuk, Leligdon, Ryan and Flick, hockey is more than just a sport.

“If I stopped playing hockey, I don’t know what I’d do,” Flick said.