Bend youth hockey team eager for bigger ice

Practices in Sunriver; Bend due to have full rink in 2015

C.O. youth hockey team growing

SUNRIVER, Ore. - Despite the lack of a full-sized ice rink in Central Oregon, the sport of hockey in on the rise across the area.

Every Sunday, 21 kids ages 8 to 12 lace up their practice skates at the Sunriver rink as part of the Bend Polar Bears youth travel team.

Each kid on the team has played hockey before, which makes the teaching aspect of the game a little easier for Coach Meghan Herman.

"We do teach them the basic puck works at the younger age, but until they're about 8 years old, you just want to develop the athlete," Herman said. "So anything you can do that is an athletic form, and then you teach the hockey skills during that."

Eight-year-old Seth Sween, one of the smallest players on the team, started playing when he was 4.

"The fun part is, you get to learn stuff step by step and get to be a better player,"  Sween said.

But despite his size, he's not afraid of the kids that are twice as big as him.

"When I first started, it was really hard holding all the gear on you, because it puts a lot of weight and pressure on you. But once you get it, it's really easy," Sween said.

Right now, the ice the Bend Polar Bears are skating on is one-third the size of a regular rink.

Come 2015, it will be a regulation-sized rink.

"It's going to make it easier, and when we go play games against teams with bigger-sized rinks, it's going to help a lot, because we're going to be used to the off-sides and the icing and just the bigger rink," said 12-year-old Charlie Martin.

Herman added, "We've definitely outgrown these small sheets of ice we skate on, Though we're excited to have ice to skate on, we're super-excited for the pavilion, so the kids have a place to have a travel league."

The Bend Parks and Rec's plan is for the rink to be in place by November 2015, and Coach Herman believes each area high school will have their own team in a few years.

"I think that it's going to explode. I think we're going to have more hockey players than we know what to do with," Herman said.

The Polar Bears play their games in Portland, Eugene, and Klamath Falls.

After tying their first game of the year, they've won their last two, forcing Coach Herman to keep her promise and shave her hair into a Mohawk.

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