SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Last weekend, over nine thousand people piled into the Savannah Civic Center over two days for the annual Savannah Hockey Classic. A week later at Lake Mayer Park, the crowd is much smaller.
So are the athletes.
But the passion? That’s just as big.
Meet the Lake Mayer Hockey Club, a group of about 20 kids who meet at the Lake Mayer Park roller rink every Saturday morning during the fall and winter to get their hockey fix.
“It’s just a way for kids to come out and learn the game,” says club director Mike Stille. “It was something different.”
Stille started the club five years ago. Many of the kids involved are like the Michigan native, northern transplants born with a love of the game. Many of the players say they picked up a stick because their parents played hockey as kids.
It’s not so much about skill level, as it is about honing those skills.
“Half the kids could skate when we started. Half the kids couldn’t skate,” Stille smiles. “The kids that couldn’t skate when we started this program five years ago are now probably some of the best skaters we have.”
The biggest goal for the club is to help grow the game in an atypical hockey climate like Savannah. Stille says he’s astounded at just how much this club and the kids in it have grown.
“It’s just a lot of dedication,” he says. “They got bit by the hockey bug, and that’s just taken it from there.”
For many of these young players, this club is their chance to get involved in the game.
“Sometimes it’s cold. Sometimes it’s hot out here,” says 11 year old Josiah Dowell. “But we always make it a fun day.”
Dowell says he loves playing physical. For nine year old Piper Mott, she enjoys lacing up her skates. Piper says he dad used to play, which inspired her to give the sport a try. Her first goal brought a memory that’s stuck in her mind.
“It was awesome,” she says. “We went to River Street and got a treat to celebrate.”
It’s those kinds of memories Stille hopes to convert into a lifelong passion for the sport. As he found out himself, once this sport gets in your blood, it’s hard to get it out.
“It’s a game you can enjoy for your entire life,” Stille says. “You never have to give it up.”
From the looks of Saturday morning at Lake Mayer Park, none of these kids plan to.