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Skating along smoothly at the Bremerton Ice Arena
It was like they had won the Lord Stanleys Cup.
The players rushed the ice and pig piled on the goalie. Supporters in the stands were jumping up and down and hugging.
That is how Floyd Johnson, general manager of the Bremerton Ice Arena, described the scene last weekend when a Kitsap County Hockey Association (KCHA) squirt team won a tournament for the first time ever, and did so on their home ice.
It came down to a Sunday morning. Our kids knew they had to get a tie or a win to get in the championship game, Johnson said. They got a tie, then won 2-0. It was very exciting for us and for the kids.
The KCHA Outlaws youth hockey program and the figure skating program at the arena have seen a great deal of success this year.
Figure skating is just going haywire, Johnson said. I couldnt ask for a better figure skating staff. They work hard and care about the students. They go above and beyond what is asked of them.
Johnson credits skating director Cheri Wright for leading an excellent program.
The arena has had 125 kids participate in its learn-to-skate program. Among those learners, many are improving rapidly. Between 50 and 55 kids took part in the arenas Holiday on Ice show Sunday, Dec. 18, an event which succeeded beyond even Johnsons expectations.
It was packed. Even more so than for Tomahawks games, he said. There were 400 tickets sold and it really got to the point where it was standing room only.
The improvement in kids skating skills has also impressed him.
Some of our skaters went from just pushing buckets, needing to hold on to someone or something to stay up, to winning medals, Johnson said. Its amazing how fast kids can develop.
As a group, Bremerton Ice Arena kids took fifth place at a recent competition at the Lloyd Center in Portland. Another learn-to-skate session begins Jan. 16 and runs through March 11.
Johnson said the sport has been boosted by recent local exposure, with the U.S. figure skating championships taking place in Portland this past January and the event returning to the Pacific Northwest soon, with the 2007 championships being held at the Spokane Arena. Gov. Christine Gregoire also recently announced a bid to try and get the 2009 championships back to Washington state again.
Not to mention the fact that it is an Olympic year.
Olympic years always have an impact, Johnson said. Theres more exposure to skating during hockey season and the NHL is now back, and also during the Olympic years. It gives us a real positive boost.
In 2010, the Olympics are gonna be right up the street from us (in Vancouver, B.C.) so were sitting pretty.
The hockey teams of KCHA are doing well as a whole, popular enough that there are waiting lists in some age groups to get onto a team. Not every team has a winning record, but each can confidently say it has been competitive in the North Puget Sound Hockey League and has players that are developing and improving.
The squirts (ages 8-10) didnt just bring in a bunch of cupcakes for their tournament and sweep through them. The Outlaws downed Kent Valley 5-2, Puget Sound 2-1, Sno-King Green 4-3 and tied the Seattle Blue Thunder 2-2 before overcoming the league-leading Thunder 2-1 to win the 2005 Battle for the Sound squirt tournament.
The mini-mite program for 4-6 year olds has been popular as it is relatively inexpensive and teaches the youngest of players the very basics of the game. The growing association is also hoping to add a girls team with 14 players ready to go.
(KCHA director) Wes (Travis) has been doing a fabulous job, Johnson said. Parents have been very supportive. We have excellent coaches.
Hoping to follow up on the squirts success, the bantams (14-15 years old) host a tournament at the arena Jan. 13-15 with nine or more teams coming to town, while the midgets (15-18) welcome NPSHL foes Feb. 3-5 and a Pee Wee (10-12) tournament will be held in Bremerton in March.
As for KCHAs fit into the NPSHL, Johnson has been pleased.
Everything has been running really smoothly. Were holding our own in this league, he said. Its actually been a very fun league for us to be playing and we are looking forward to be able to play in it again next year.
The league asked and KCHA has confirmed it will make ice time available if any Outlaw teams qualify for the playoffs to be able to host games.
A spring league will follow the season beginning April 21.
Its three-on-three and its a little bit different style of hockey, Johnson said. But the kids get a lot more touches of the puck.
For more information about programs at the Bremerton Ice Arena, call the rink at (360) 479-7465.