Youth hockey growing on the coast

By Elizabeth Vowell – email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It might be pushing the 80's outside the Coast Coliseum, but inside it's as cold as ice as kids in the Gulf Coast Youth Hockey Association gear up for the latest season.

"Hockey in the south is something that is a little bit unique, but every kid that has tried it, loves it," said Mark Sedgwick who works with the GCYHA.

However, it takes more than love to stick with hockey in the south.  It takes a major time and money commitment.  The GCYHA teams often travel states away to compete against other teams, and the needed equipment isn't cheap.

"Here in the south, hockey is sometimes a hard sell, because you can't go back to the ball field and pick up a ball and throw it around like you would in baseball or in football," said Sedgwick.

But the GCYHA makes it easier for the parents and families who want to play by helping track down affordable equipment and arranging practice times.

"It's a lot of fun. We enjoy it. We started last year because my son wanted to play, and came out here and met a lot of great people out here," said hockey mom Michele Guthrie.

Parents have other reasons to look into hockey for their kids; every coach must be certified by USA Hockey and trained in first aid.

"We stress not just the sport, but we stress the development of individuals," said Sedgwick.  "So we talk to kids about character things. Not worrying so much about winning but worrying about improving their own game."

Even though Hockey has a reputation for violence, the coaches said there are no more injuries than any other sport and most kids love the fast action.

"You get to hit people. I'm a goalie so I get to take 100 mile per hour slap shots, and it's just really fun," said player Zach Kelley.

"Once you start playing you fall in love with the game. I just really love hockey," said player Matt Sedgwick.

For these players, and parents, the love of the game is what it's all about.

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