This year, the Wolves got refrigerated ice.
The Ice Wolves are the hometown youth hockey
team here in Dodgeville, the small Wisconsin
town Lands' End calls home. And a rink of
their own has been a long time coming.
The association draws from a 20-mile radius.
Right now, 102 kids are signed up. And it's
an all-volunteer operation. Parents and
volunteers do the coaching, staff the concession
stand - even operate the Zamboni™!
Kids are grouped by age - Atoms (under 8),
Mites (7-8), Squirts (9-10), PeeWee (11-12),
Bantams (13-14) and Midgets (18 and under).
Kids with more experience can "skate up"
with older kids - if they're good enough.
On game night, the kids wander outside the
locker rooms. We hear one boy intoning,
"I don't have my gloves... I don't have
my socks... I don't have my elbow thingies."
When you play hockey, a lot of equipment
needs tending after. "It takes a quarter-hour
to put all their gear on, " one parent tells
us. But plenty of parents are always on
hand. And it doesn't matter whose kid needs
help with his skates - everybody pitches
All teams are coed, with no checking (hockey
talk for "body blocking") below the PeeWee
level. But, as one coach sadly points out,
when the checking starts, the girls tend
to drop out. "The boys are bigger, faster
and they hit harder," he tells us.
For girls who want to continue with the
sport and don't have an appetite for checking,
there are girl teams with slightly different
rules - no checking allowed. On girl teams,
all ages play together up to the age of
19. When a coed team plays against a girl
team, they play by the girls' rules. And
it's possible to see a team of 12-year-old
boys going stick-to-stick against high school
girls a full head taller. "The boys may
like that," one hockey mom laughs.
The Wolves are a 3-year-old organization,
but this is the first year they've had their
own ice. In the past, the best they could
manage was to flood the cement floor of
the park pavilion and hope the weather cooperated.
Sometimes it did. "We got in maybe six practices
last year," one parent told us.
But mostly, hockey practice meant using
some other town's ice. Usually when the
resident team were through with their own
practice. Sometimes, that wasn't till 9:00
p.m. or later. And sometimes, the only rink
available was an hour's drive away.
But there was always a dedicated parent
eager to make the trip. Imagine piloting
a minivan crammed with kids and skates and
all manner of hockey gear, rap music blaring
(it's what the kids listen to nowadays)
and the heater barely equal to its task.
"It doesn't sound like it, but those were
good times," one hockey dad tells us. Having
a look at the amiable disorder as kids suit
up to go on the ice, we don't doubt it.
For the kids who made those late night journeys
down the rural highways of our county, it's
something they'll remember for the rest
of their lives.
WELCOME TO OUR STORE,