Pee Wee Hockey comes to Tahoe |

Pee Wee Hockey comes to Tahoe

In most cold weather climates, hockey is a popular pastime among the locals. It is definitely cold in Truckee, but the popularity of hockey has remained icy as well.

The High Sierra Wild – in its inaugural year in the Northern California Junior Hockey Association – is trying to change that. A 12-and-under class B pee wee team recognized by the California Amateur Hockey Association, the Wild is the first NORCAL team to play its home games in the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena.

Along with the High Sierra 17 1/2-and-under team skating out of Total Sports in Sparks, Nev., the Wild is one of only two NORCAL ice hockey teams consisting of players from the Reno-Tahoe region.

Right wing Jordan Devlin, 11, is the lone Truckee resident on the Wild, combined with teammates from Reno, Sparks, South Lake Tahoe, Stateline, Zephyr Cove, Minden, Gardnerville and Carson City. This abundance of representation is proof that hockey is catching on among kids in the northern California and Nevada regions, but not in Truckee specifically.

“None of my friends are really interested (in hockey),” Devlin said. “Most of them like football and baseball.”

But Devlin, who has played ice hockey for roughly two and a half years, does not let it discourage his love of the game. He got into the sport after playing street hockey, which is played on in-line skates.

“I used to watch my brother play roller hockey, so I thought I’d try it,” said Devlin, who had played roller hockey since age five. In 2001, he decided to try his luck on the ice, competing in an in-house league in Reno.

Then the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena opened on May 11, 2002. The parents of local ice hockey players got together and decided to organize a traveling team in the NORCAL league that could host its home games in the new arena.

Devlin’s mother, Charlene, was one of those parents.

“We were pretty persistent about it,” she said, “but the commitment for us and Jordan is huge. We travel mainly to the Bay Area for road games. Our farthest drive was four and a half hours to Foster City on the south side of San Francisco.”

Plus, the Wild practices in the new arena, which means two round-trips to South Lake Tahoe, in addition to the locality of the weekend games.

“It demands a lot of our time,” Charlene said, “but it has been fun.”

The Wild have made a statement in their debut season, posting a 4-4 pre-season record and a 2-2-1 regular season record – impressive for a team that has faced experienced teams from the Bay Area, Central California and Northern California.

In the past, individual players from the Tahoe region have competed in clubs and in-house leagues, but the formation of the High Sierra Wild is a legitimate step up, and it allows kids to travel and compete against kids from other regions.

Gary Moore, manager of the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena, is optimistic about the growth of the NORCAL leagues in Tahoe.

“This is the highest level of youth hockey that we could have in our arena,” he said. “When you have a blue chip program like this, it helps all the feeder programs. It’s good motivation for the kids to advance to the higher levels.”

Admission to the youth games at the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena is free. The arena is an official-sized National Hockey League arena, and it seats approximately 475, Moore said.

The Wild’s regular season schedule concludes in March with a subsequent play-off round.

The Wild will compete in the San Jose Junior Sharks Winter Classic Dec. 26-30 in San Jose, and the team recently hosted the Tahoe Turkey Shoot, finishing in third place.

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