The ice of the rink at Bill Collier Community Ice Arena may be a couple of months from freezing over, but the hockey has returned on the Klamath Basin.
Beginning last Wednesday, Klamath Ice Sports (KIS) has been holding an open rink where kids and adults can throw on a helmet and gloves, grab a stick play some pickup hockey. Wednesday, the second session of the summer had roughly 20 participants.
“The youngest is three or four, the oldest is 33,” said operations supervisor Ryan Mederios. “It’s mainly for kids, but there are some adults that come out and enjoy it.”
It’s just another initiative that KIS is implementing — similar to Learn to Skate and Paly which is a chance for athletes already playing lessons, or Try Hockey for Free which provides kids with a hockey stick that they get to keep — to spark interest in a sport that can be overlooked compared to other sports played in the winter.
For now, the games are played in sneakers but volunteers Zach Brown and Mederios are to make the playing surface suitable for roller blades so that the players can get a feel for using both skating and stick skills together — something playing in shoes doesn’t provide.
“With summer programs and the development of possibly roller hockey, this is a stepping stone to building a junior program so by the time they get into high school they will be ready and have the confidence to be one of the top teams in the state,” Brown said.
The team that Brown is referring to is the Ice Hawks, who two years ago won the U18 Oregon High School State Championship and in 2016-17 won the Southern Oregon High School Championship.
“We are trying to get the kids involved as early as we can,” Brown said. “A lot of other kids play different sports, this is played during basketball season and wrestling, you kinda have to commit to hockey.”
Playing hockey for the Ice Hawks has become more affordable according to Mederios. When he last played for the Ice Hawks in the 2011-12, the cost to play pushed $2,000 for a season. Now, Mederios says, through the help from the local community to provide scholarships, is below $1,000.
“We try and provide everything because it is expensive,” Mederios said. “Our cost over the years has actually gone down instead of going up for high school kids because they travel and stay in hotels.”
The sessions will be held each Wednesday through October from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., the cost to participate in $5.
“To have it open, not only for us, it’s just cost effective,” Mederios said. “We are able to provide opportunities for kids to get out of the house and learn the sport or even just expel some of the energy they have pent up.”