Howard Co. hockey club puts dedication on ice

November 29, 1992|By Michael Richman | Michael Richman,Contributing Writer

President Mark Daughaday and the remainder of the Howard County Youth Hockey Club's hierarchy have a tough assignment.

Attracting kids to play a sport that is steep in cost and isn't learned "in the back yard," as Daughaday puts it, creates quite a challenge.

For instance, competing on a travel team -- the league's major attraction -- can cost as much as $1,400, including registration and equipment.

"Hockey takes a lot of time, dedication and hard work to learn to play," Daughaday said. "It's not like dribbling a basketball or throwing a football in the back yard."

That's where the Columbia Ice Rink -- which is housing the league in its 21st season -- comes in. And despite any obstacles, participation is strong for the 1992-1993 season, which runs until the spring.

About 340 kids play in HCYHC. Daughaday said: "We're at the point where we've got to watch what we do and how we expand. You can only have so many members because of the ice time."

HCYHC is divided into three leagues: travel, house and instructional. There are six divisions of travel teams -- the Mites (age 9 and under), Squirts (10-11), Pee Wees (12-13), Bantams (14-15), Midgets (16-17) and Preps (a combination of Midgets and Bantams) -- with one Class A team and one Class B team in all but the Squirts. The Squirts consist of one A and two B squads.

There's a spot for everyone who wants to play in the league -- including girls. About 10-12 girls are in uniform, and "once the girls are checked, they give it right back," Daughaday said. Those who try out for a travel team play either A or B, depending on skill level. Class A players are more talented.

The instructional league is for children ages 3-9 who are learning how to skate. Teams from the house league, which is for 6- to 13-year-olds, play 10 games a season without any traveling.

HCYHC is governed by USA Hockey, a rule-setting body in Colorado. The league plays in the Capital Beltway Hockey League, which consists of clubs in 13 geographic areas from Hershey, Pa., to Hampton Roads, Va.

Rick Baker, a shift supervisor at the ice rink, started in the house league at age 6 and competed in the travel league until he reached 18. Baker, 21, now a player in the Howard County Men's Hockey League, remembers the lengthy road trips as the league's most enjoyable part.

"The best experience was driving to upstate New York and Canada," Baker said. "I liked going away, playing as a team and seeing the country."

Baker is referring to the extensive travel that makes HCYHC so attractive, something other leagues such as soccer and baseball offer to a lesser extent.

The trips are expensive, and the league relies on parents to raise money through raffles, pizza sales, book sales and donations. A group of parents generated $5,000 for the Squirts A trip to Ontario.

Everyone from the president on down is a volunteer. Jack Nolan is in his 14th year with the league, having coached and worked in a peripheral role. He and past presidents Bill Boarman and Tom Hendrix have served longer than anyone.

Nolan said he believes the kids get the most out of "learning teamwork."

"Hockey's one of those sports where the kids have to work together to succeed," Nolan said. "You can't hide a player or two on a hockey team like baseball, so all the players have to learn teamwork."

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