- Our Town
Frozen Ballou Pond showcases Bowen’s hockey talent
Freezing temperatures last week saw island kids skate onto not-so-thin-ice to play Canada’s game right here on Bowen. The burgeoning hockey community had a blast, with Ballou Pond on Cates Hill providing a great little outdoor arena, aided by hockey-dad Doug Hooper setting up a water-pumping system to keep the surface smooth.
Bowen’s second freeze this winter (Hooper noted the rarity) gave kids the chance to mimic Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe’s childhoods’ and play outdoors every day of a long weekend. Hordes were there, including Ted Duffield, Peyton Grundy, Finn, Will and Charlie Segal, Connolly and Angus Ingram, Peter Blomberg, Mattias Blomberg, Marlin Watts, Keelan Hondro, Cooper Wright, Luna Matthews, River Hooper and neophytes Beck, Finn, Gavin and Ryan.
A notable feature of that list is that, aside from the tiny guys not ready for organized hockey, 8 out of 10 of the older kids currently play in the West Van Minor Hockey Association. Despite the extra challenges of ferry travel, hockey players are the rise on Bowen and one WVMHA Atom team has 5 Bowen players (Dane Gilbert and Guthrie Boose among them), while the Pee Wee Rep team has two.
So what gives? Are Bowen parents getting crazier?
“I’m pretty sure he was born with a hockey stick in his hand,” River’s mom, Pam Matthews, offered as her and husband Doug’s reason behind signing him up. Matthews said that helping cement her son’s love of the game was that at just two years old, “…he watched the Canadians play in the World Junior series and he just fell in love with it. After that it was just hockey, hockey, hockey.”
They started him with skating lessons, not as much fun as hockey, but River loved them. While still wee, River and Doug, a hockey player from his youth, went to the West Van Stick and Puck session most weeks for two years. Pam said the thinking was “okay, maybe he’ll get tired of this…but that never happened.”
River, 9, started in Hockey 3 at age 7 and is now on that team with 5 Bowen kids in total. His skills have taken a leap this year and he’s a team leader in goals (an impressive 13 in his last 5 games) and is getting called up to the Atom Rep team for games, a club he’s a lock to make next season.
Matthews notes that there’s more than the hockey on the positive side and that River enjoys making new friends and working toward a common goal with them. She also points out that for parents, having that opportunity to get to know other parents is a bonus (hockey parents spend a lot of time in a lot of arenas with one another).
The Ingram family may be approaching a record for Bowen families with the most kids playing organized hockey. Already Dad Todd Ingram and Mom Tina Overbury have Connolly (a.k.a. The Con Man), whose playing style is reminiscent of former NHL great the Big ‘M’, Frank Mahovlich, playing Pee Wee Rep, and Angus, who is the agile goalie on River’s team.
“I thought hockey was a great game and that it’d be really interesting to play,” Angus said. “Goalie was more fun than playing out. I tried some games playing out but didn’t think it was as much fun. But hockey is just fun the whole way.”
The Ingram family plan is to sign up 4-year-old Cedar next year. Cedar said he looks forward to playing and has already been on skates. Part of his burgeoning love of hockey comes from watching his brothers play, though the truth be told wee siblings of players spend more time at games barreling around the arena with other wee siblings of other players.
What is keeping the Ingram boys on the ice? Love of the game of course, having that passion for hockey that Bobby Orr repeatedly refers to in his recent autobiography, but also a willingness on the part of their parents to take the plunge.
Naturally not all Bowen parents are willing to take the plunge. Indeed, Mary Ann Zakreski and husband Paul Welsh determined not long after moving to Bowen some 15 year ago that if they wanted, sports would be a part of their children’s lives but hockey wouldn’t be one of those sports.
“We decided a long time ago that our kids wouldn’t grow up playing hockey and never really considered it because having to go into early morning practices would be just too much,” Zakreski said. “So it didn’t bother them because they never really had a chance.
“I don’t’ think they ever really knew what they were missing,” she added. “Earlier on they had fun playing roller hockey instead and were kept busy with other sports.”
Has it hurt their passion for sport? Not at all. Their 3 boys, Jack, 17, Charlie, 16 and young Ben ‘Ollie Sven’ Welsh, 12, have played football, baseball (the family approaches its 12th baseball season), basketball, soccer, rugby and two are on their school’s ski team. Further, along with other island kids such as Coby Derban, Liam Scrivens and Thomas Pedley, Charlie added gymnastics to that list.
Not playing hockey also hasn’t hurt their ability to excel at sport. Jack was West Van High’s Male Athlete of the Year in grade 10 and was nominated in 3 others years while Charlie got that nod in Grade 8 and was nominated again last year. And Ben may be the best athlete of the three.
So early practices, the ferry schedule (the changes will cause headaches), frequent games and practices (the Pee Wee Rep team the Con Man and Keelan Hondro play on gets together 5 times every week) and the eroding of family time are drawbacks that keep some families from hockey. But, again, more local families seem to be taking the hockey plunge.
The reason may lie somewhere in the fact that on Ballou Pond some who don’t play in the WVMHA did appear a tad envious as those who do play darted around them for goals time and again. And while the WVMHA players may have been better at it than those others, they weren’t having any more fun.
So if the weather keeps giving us frozen ponds and kids keep getting chances to skate and score right on Bowen, it just might lead to more island kids signing up for hockey next season. That is, of course, providing their parents sign-on first.