Originally created 08/07/03

Dispelling myths about ice hockey

I ran into a friend the other day, and we got to talking about our kids and their various sporting endeavors.

When I mentioned my daughter was an accomplished figure skater and my son was a hockey player, his response left me somewhat surprised.

"Where does someone in Augusta figure skate or play ice hockey?" he said.

Almost four years since Augusta's public ice rink opened, many people still don't know it's there.

In fact, some guy once told me he thought that big "IceForum" sign just off Bobby Jones Expressway near the Wheeler Road exit was for an "ice-cube making factory."

The Augusta Ice Sports Center, and the great sports of hockey and figure skating have been mentioned here several times before, so forgive me now as I lobby for these sports once again.

The youth and adult hockey leagues are about to begin their fall seasons at the Ice Sports Center, and for hockey to survive in Augusta for the long haul, it's going to need a big push.

More than 130 area children played in Augusta Ice Hockey Association leagues last season, and around 100 adults currently are involved.

There's no reason those numbers can't be doubled.

Being involved in hockey myself as a league administrator, I know why the leagues aren't already bigger.

Lack of awareness is the biggest factor. Fear and cost are the others.

For the kids, many parents go to Augusta Lynx games and believe it is a violent game. They see the fights and the hard hitting and think their children's safety would be at risk if they signed them up for hockey.

This couldn't be further from the truth.

In fact, the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation says that ice hockey is one of the safest contact sports for children when players are properly outfitted with equipment.

There is no checking or fighting in Augusta's youth hockey leagues, and players wear a full armor of protective equipment.

My son played in the local league when he was 5, against kids up to three years older. He once was injured after taking a line drive off his ankle in a baseball game, but has never been injured playing hockey.

Many parents are turned away by the cost of hockey, which is a bit higher than signing kids up for rec-league soccer or baseball.

The full hockey equipment can cost up to $200, with the league fees also in that price range.

What most parents don't realize is the league runs much longer than most rec-league seasons. At the Ice Sports Center, seasons run from September to December and January to May. The rink also offers an installment plan to pay league fees.

Hockey equipment also doesn't cost much more than an Easton aluminum bat, Rawlings baseball glove, batting gloves and cleats. Believe me, I know.

For the grown-ups, many who love hockey simply fear the injury factor, something that could put you out of commission and impede your ability to earn a living.

Augusta adult leagues, which feature men and women, are as safe, if not safer, than some of the other games we play, including softball, basketball and karate.

Last time I played softball, I didn't have a helmet, face shield, shoulder pads and shin guards to save me from a hot line drive.

I have the contusions and scrapes to prove it.

So, if fear or finances or a lack of awareness have kept you away from the ice in the past, perhaps this will dispel those myths.

Hockey is an awesome, exciting, fast-paced intense and, most of all, safe game I promise you'll fall in love with. The rush you feel on the ice and the camaraderie you'll experience with your teammates on the bench and in the locker room are added bonuses.

Don't know how to skate? No problem. The Augusta Ice Sports Center has learn-to-skate classes. You'll be up and flying in no time.

Call the rink at 706-863-0061 for more information.

Give it a go. You won't regret it.


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