Winter Sports Building a site for good fun for Jamestown skaters

Jan. 26—JAMESTOWN — When winter sticks you in the house — sometimes you need to get out.

For many in Jamestown, that means heading to the Winter Sports Building on the University of Jamestown campus, strapping on the skates and playing some good-natured old time hockey.

The Jamestown Parks and Recreation Department is responsible for putting on an amateur hockey league twice a week at the Winter Sports Building.

"It's a good way to socialize and it's a good way to get some exercise," longtime participant Jeremy Forester said. "We have a lot of fun. We have a wide range of talent and ages out there. We have guys who can barely skate and hold a stick at the same time as those who have played in high school and at other levels."

"I know I sweat more from doing this than I do playing softball or doing other things," he said with a laugh.

The amateur league runs on Sunday and Wednesday nights beginning between 7 and 8:30 p.m. Skaters have the ice for one hour.

Wednesday's group is usually made up of those who have played hockey at some type of competitive level. Those on Sundays are typically hockey parents who are trying to learn about the game or who want to find a way to be active.

All skaters are required to wear helmets and while no other equipment is technically required, Forester said he recommends wearing leg pads, gloves, elbow pads and breezers if possible. Skaters are responsible for bringing their own skates and sticks.

"I don't really have a hockey background — I never played competitive hockey — but I always thought it would be fun to play and it's just kind of grown into something that I look forward to on Sundays now," Forester said. "I think we started with five to eight people and it's grown to 30 or 35 people who skate throughout the year."

Both the Sunday and Wednesday night leagues are open to men and women. Forester said on Sundays there are skaters ranging in age from 20 to upper 60s.

Steve Bennion is one of those who has a few years of hockey experience under his belt. Bennion has been involved in amateur hockey since he came to college at the University of Jamestown in 1998.

"Most of us grew up playing and now that we are older we still like to get out and skate and get in a good workout," Bennion said. "When you have a mix of people who all have the same enjoyment for the sport, that adds to a lot of the fun."

Bennion plays with the Wednesday night group and while the teams can be competitive, no one is checking or getting angry on the ice.

"When you play in a pick-up type of environment, there is no animosity towards anyone because you are on a different team every week," Bennion said. "When you show up you throw on light or dark and that's your team. It never gets chippy. There's no checking because we all have to go to work in the morning. Halfway through the goalies switch so you get to shoot on both goalies — it's fun."

The amateur leagues typically run from September to the end of April. To play and cover the ice time fees, the league organizers charge participants $100 for the entire nine months. If someone drops in to play for one night, they are charged $10. Any leftover money is donated to Jamestown's youth hockey programs. Last year, the Sunday night group financed the puck shooting area that now sits in Eagles Arena.

"For what we end up paying and how much enjoyment we get out of it, it's a no-brainer in my opinion," Bennion said of why he pays to play. "I couldn't imagine not having the access to skate and play. Everyone has got a smile on their face and is just glad to be out there. We don't take it too seriously, but we love to be out keeping ourselves as young as we can."