Hockey 101 gives novice skaters ice time |

Hockey 101 gives novice skaters ice time

Elizabeth SeverySpecial to The Aspen Times

Takashi Yoshino goes over hockey strategy Tuesday with a group of first-time hockey players at the Ice Garden. Aspen Times/Mark Fox

When Chris Peshek started teaching himself to play hockey, he found he was going to have trouble getting into the game.The skaters who played novice-level drop-in games at the Lewis Ice Arena were a little hesitant to accept him. After all, Peshek, a well-muscled physical therapist at the Aspen Club, was a true beginner on ice. Peshek got his start in stick-and-puck skate-arounds, then he wanted a taste of a real 5-on-5 game. So he asked a fellow stick-and-puck player about novice hockey.”He looked me up and down,” Peshek recalled, laughing, “and said, ‘I guess we accept your type.'”Unwelcome at novice hockey, a dejected Peshek sought out a group of women he’d heard played something called “pre-novice” hockey. And after a winter of pre-novice rigors, he heard about Hockey 101, a beginner adult hockey class at the Aspen Ice Garden.Peshek leapt at the chance to improve his game.”I’d like to be able to play novice!” he joked. “No, I’d like to get good enough to be competitive in the Rec. League.”

Hockey 101 is the brainchild of longtime hockey players and coaches Peter Whitmore and Steven Costalas. It’s now in its fourth, and most successful, session. The class is designed for adult skaters who want to learn the basic skills of ice hockey.”Pete came running down the stairs one day with an article from a hockey magazine about adults learning to play hockey,” Costalas recalled. “He looked at me and said, ‘Hey, we could do this, too.'”Since its inception more than a year ago, the duo’s course has grown from 15 skaters to 26. To meet the demand, they created a Hockey 201, for 101 graduates who want to keep skating, keep improving.Hockey 101, offered Tuesday nights from 6 to 8 p.m., and 201, Thursdays at the same time, are the only adult courses offered in town. “I think if you try to just go out and pick it up on your own, you pick up a lot of bad habits,” Stephanie Cantor, a 101 student, said on a recent Tuesday night. The classes give people a chance to gain confidence before skating with more experienced players, and perhaps one day graduating to the Aspen Rec. League. For moms, it seems, the courses are opening up avenues for them to spend more time with their kids.In fact, 22 of the 26 students in 101 are women, many with kids in the Aspen Junior Hockey program.

Though most players have watched hockey and know how to tie skates, the level of experience was apparent from the first day of classes. Many players chose the “tri-pod” stance, using their stick as a third leg, and their golf swing provided the basis of a pass. Now, four weeks later, the skaters stand firmly on two legs, ankles upright, and passes are smooth and effortless.The players are there to learn; after years of watching their kids trounce the competition, parents wanted in on the action. Or, perhaps, learning the game is a new challenge and a statement of independence. “My parents never let me play when I was younger, so it’s my rebellious thing,” Cantor said. Cantor hopes to play for the Aspen Mother Puckers after honing her skills this summer: “If they’ll take me, I’ll play!”Mother Pucker goalie Heather Tattersall is relearning hockey from a whole new perspective – as a forward.”I was a goalie who didn’t really know how to skate,” Tattersall said. “There’s two goalies (for the Mother Puckers), so I wind up sitting down a lot, so if I learn to skate out, I get to play all the time.”Coach Costalas said many students, like Tattersall and Cantor, take 101 or 201 during the summer to get ahead for the winter hockey season. And the rink is nice and cool on long, hot summer days.

The players come for the coaching, provided by veterans Costalas and Whitmore.Takashi Yoshino, a former Ice Garden employee who now lives in his native Japan, is a rare summer treat. Yoshino returned to Aspen to coach kids’ hockey camps and he helps out with the beginner classes.Hockey is one of my expressions that I make in life,” Yoshino said. “I really love to share what I know about hockey. And I learn a lot of things from them.”I like the people’s smiles on the ice.”No one walks out of 101 without a smile. Maybe it’s the infectious atmosphere of sport, or maybe it’s Costalas’ cheesy jokes, but the players even manage a smile and a grunt of laughter when they find themselves crashing headlong onto the ice. “The pads and the boards are my friend,” Cantor laughed. In addition to the evening classes, Whitmore and Costalas organize two inter-squad scrimmages throughout the 6-week course. The games are a time to showcase talents and play on a team.”The games are fun,” Tattersall said. “As long as you’re not afraid to crash, you’re OK.”

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