Small-town ice, big-time inspiration: Tri-City Americans players connect with Pendleton youth
PENDLETON — The small ice rink tucked into Roy Raley Park is a far cry from the Toyota Center where the Tri-City Americans play, but for some of the players, it reminds them of home.
Tri-City defenseman Ethan Peters, who hails from Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, said the Monday, Jan. 29, trip to Pendleton brought back childhood memories.
“My grandparents had a pond at their place,” Peters said. “It would be frozen from November to February or March. It was solid for a good five months. We’d be out there until the lights came on to go home. It was a blast. It’s fun to look back and remember being a kid.”
Peters, along with teammates Parker Bell, Lukas Dragicevic and Alex Serraglio, Tri-City head coach Stu Barnes, and assistants Jody Hull and TJ Millar worked with the players from the Pendleton Ice Sports Hockey Club.
The club has 63 players — including 11 girls — this season from kindergarten to seniors in high school. The players hone their skills on the small sheet of ice, and welcome any help that comes their way.
“It went great,” said John Bieker, who works with the youth hockey club. “They just ran through some drills. The first 45 minutes with the younger kids, then the older kids. They did skating drills, puck handling drills, passing drills, and they signed autographs. It’s fun to see them in person.”
This is the second year Barnes has taken a group of Tri-City players to Pendleton.
Bell and Serraglio were part of the group that went last year, but it was the first trip for Peters and Dragicevic.
“Parker and Alex knew what to expect,” Barnes said. “But Ethan and Lukas didn’t. The enthusiasm from the (Pendleton) players was really cool. They really enjoy playing. The first two trips have been successful. I’m looking forward to doing it again.”
Peters said the kids were receptive to the skills sessions, and that they all had fun.
“It was an awesome experience,” Peters said. “It was a blast. It was pretty awesome. We had a little autograph thing at the end too.”
Pendleton High School junior Anson Dressler, was part of the older group of players Monday night.
“It was really fun,” Dressler said. “It’s cool to get to see some of the players and have them show us how it’s done.”
Dressler has been skating and playing hockey since he was 5 years old.
“My dad (Paul) grew up in Taber, Alberta,” he said. “He played hockey growing up in Canada, but just for fun.”
A standard sheet of hockey ice is 200 feet long and 85 feet wide. Pendleton’s rink, which will get some much needed improvements in the near future, is 96 feet long and 56 feet wide, has dasher boards and boasts its own Zamboni. A grant from Wildhorse Resort & Casino helps keep equipment costs down for players.
Barnes, who played 16 seasons in the NHL for five teams, grew up in Spruce Grove, Alberta, where playing hockey outdoors was the norm growing up.
“We all remember getting to do that as kids — skating outdoors and getting back to the roots of the game,” Barnes said. “This is a pretty cool setting that they have. With the string of lights over top, it gives it some atmosphere.”
Barnes, who took note of the Pendleton Round-Up Arena last year, said he needs to find a day to attend the Pendleton Round-Up.
While Barnes works on that, the Pendleton Ice Sports Hockey Club is scheduled to attend a Tri-City Americans game in February.
“Last year, we took over 100 people with parents and kids,” Bieker said.
by Annie Fowler
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