The Stuff of Legends: Locals hone skills in summer hockey league
The traditional notion of summer sports usually conjures up images of athletes hitting a baseball or getting out onto the water for rowing, fishing or swimming.
There are a select few, however, who celebrate the warm weather by breaking out their hockey sticks and goalie masks. While most think of hockey as a sport limited to those brave enough to strap on the pads and play in cold ice rinks in the heart of January, the Young Legends Street Hockey league is out to prove the sport has just as much relevance in the heart of summer.
“I think hockey has become 12-month sport,” says Carl Ellis, the founder and director of Young Legends. “You can now skate 12 months out of the year. With this, with our price range, and with it being outside — and not in a cold rink — that draws kids into it.”
The league is open to players between the ages of 9 and 14, and draws young athletes from as far away as Hamilton, in addition to local towns such as Gloucester, Rockport and Essex. One might think of it as a challenge to try to garner the attention of the same type of athlete that would normally go out for Little League in the summer, but Young Legends is set up to avoid conflicting schedules between the two youth sports.
“Baseball is always there, and you could say you’re competing with that type of player, which is why we try to schedule it on Saturday mornings, when there are no baseball games,” says Ellis. “I played baseball, too, and I know what it’s like to want to get in other sports.”
The league isn’t necessarily limited to a handful of games (with each game split into two 25-minute halves) played out on Saturday mornings at Stage Fort Park. Every Friday night, Ellis and his staff — which includes sister Candace, brother Danny, cousin Anthony and co-director Alicia Sargent — host training sessions for the kids that focus on the areas of skills and strength and conditioning.
“It gives kids who are into hockey a chance to develop their skills in the offseason,” says Ellis. “I was fortunate to have programs that helped me both on and off the ice, and I want others to have the same opportunity.”
In fact, the goal of providing a program to help local youth get a chance to hone their hockey skills was just one of the reasons Ellis began the program four years ago.
“I wanted something to give back to Gloucester and the kids,” says Ellis, who played hockey for Gloucester High School and Suffolk University, and is planning to attend medical school. “Street hockey was the easiest way to do this, because I was going to school during the rest of the year and I could do this in the summer. I also wanted something to give me more teaching skills, because I enjoy teaching.”