Some people call it a club.
Other people call it a workout.
Still others refer to it as a family.
No matter what they call it, the LaGrange Street Hockey League is a good place for fellowship, and a few nicks and bruises. The local team and league have been a part of the sports fabric of Troup County since July of 2013.
The league was founded by two ice hockey diehards, Glenn Cunningham and Brett Miolen of LaGrange. They both grew up in the Northeast, right in hockey country and in a hotbed for the lipbusting NHL. Seven years ago, Miolen and Cunningham, decided to introduce LaGrange to the game that they were reared on. For them, hockey is it. And the street hockey version of the game has caught on in La-Grange like sticky honey on a napkin.
“The more you play, the better you get. Our players are learning what to do with the puck, and they are learning what to do without the puck. They want to win,” said Miolen.
There was more winning, scoring and deep breathing on Sunday afternoon in two matches and six periods of play in the LaGrange Street Hockey League. There was the usual headbands, tattoos, tennis shoes and rollerblades in the weekend games.
There was also something else.
“Everybody was playing hard. We got in the zone. It was hectic and fast,” said street hockey fanatic and player Gunnar Knight.
The Carrollton resident and the LaGrange High graduate (class of 2011) rammed through six goals in the two league matches. Joseph Shaw of LaGrange scored two more goals in the Sunday hockey frenzy.
“We were getting competitive. I like setting people up (with assists),” said Shaw.
He is a coach on the floor – there is no ice – but Shaw usually scores and mentors. He is one of the hockey guys. Ethan Demarest, a 30-year-old player, is one of those guys who is learning the basics.
Demarest has been coming to the Sunday hockey games in LaGrange for the last three months. The new street hockey player is grasping the game and is using his hockey stick.
“Street hockey takes grit and determination. I love the game. It’s intense. All you need to do is show up and get a stick,” said Demarest.
Nolan Wisener of LaGrange is another hockey convert. He is on his game and is willing.
“I used to play soccer, but this is nothing like soccer. Street hockey is backand- forth. You need some pace. We have a good, little group (of players),” said the 26-year-old Wisener.
He scored two goals in last weekend’s matches at the Mike Daniel Recreation Center in LaGrange. Newnan native Brad Smith comes to LaGrange every Sunday for the weekly hockey matches, too.
Smith slammed through four goals on Sunday afternoon.
“I’ve got some stickhandling ability. I put the stick on the puck. They have taught me about passing, shooting and more,” said Smith.
Doing the teaching and the mentoring are the hockey experts, Cunningham and Miolen. And they like what they are creating in LaGrange – some street hockey enthusiasm.
“This is a leadership thing. The players are learning about teamwork. We love hockey. And once you get a hockey stick in your hand, it is hard to let go,” said Cunningham. “We are teaching how to pass, shoot and play hard.”
Taylor Welborn, the former Darton College and South Carolina-Aiken golfer, is now a street hockey enthusiast. The Troup High graduate has found a new sport.
“This is fun. You just need some timing (in the hockey rink). I’m trying to beat these guys (and score),” said Welborn.
And according to Glenn Cunningham, the coach and the goaltender, “Hockey takes physicality. I have lost as much as seven pounds (in the Sunday matches). You are going to lose some weight.”
Cunningham’s hockey gear weighs 35 pounds.
“You will get sweaty,” said Cunningham.
There is fun, and games and pucks hit to the chest in the LaGrange Street Hockey League. Even without a sheet of ice to play on like the Detroit Red Wings have, there is an adrenaline rush and goals to be scored.
LaGrange has its own version of hockey. And the guys do play to win and then tell jokes afterwards. It is all a part of the street hockey league.
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