Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Hockey Association Takes to Ice Clubs Fill Gap between Youth, Men's Leagues

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Hockey Association Takes to Ice Clubs Fill Gap between Youth, Men's Leagues

Article excerpt

Their skates hit the ice at 6 a.m. for ice hockey practice. It's cold, sometimes with single-digit temperatures, as they sharpen skating, defense and shooting skills for an hour before school.

They play in the Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association, formed last year with players from seven high schools in the Alton area. This year, players from six high schools between Collinsville and Cahokia formed a southern division of the league.

The players in the new southern division attend Althoff, Belleville East, Belleville West, O'Fallon, Cahokia and Collinsville high schools. Many of the players are in organized ice hockey for the first time. Some played in youth hockey associations in Granite City and Cahokia, and others played roller hockey. Youth association teams take players through age 16. "It's a shame there was no place for them to go," said Chuck Donze, coach of the Crusaders hockey club from Althoff. "The men's leagues are not as organized. As far as being a tool, that's not the place where you're going to learn hockey." Belleville East coach Mark McKinney added, "Now they get a chance to play at the high school level and represent their school." Several of the coaches, who were acquainted through coaching in the Cahokia association, decided to form the club teams when more than 50 students at several schools expressed interest. Also, the coaches knew there was an interest in hockey because 330 players are in the Cahokia youth leagues, McKinney said. To play in the Mississippi Valley league, a player must attend the school that the hockey club represents, said Larry Thatcher, coach of the Roxana High School club. The schools do not financially support the teams. Some high schools in Illinois support ice hockey teams, but there are too few schools interested statewide for the Illinois High School Association to sanction hockey as a state series event, said Marty Hickman, assistant executive director of the association. Schools that have ice hockey teams are limited to playing other association member teams and must follow association regulations, Hickman said. …

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