“Hockey families are close-knit,” said Tyler Eddy of the Southwest Michigan Blades. He coaches the high school-age team which includes several players from Vicksburg and Schoolcraft in a season from November through mid-February.
If players take up travel hockey, it adds another six months to their hockey lives, he said.
The Blades play in the southwest Michigan high school hockey league as a club team. They compete against teams like Mattawan, Portage Central and Northern. The league has served as a place for students from smaller schools such as Vicksburg, Schoolcraft and Three Rivers to play since 1989. The Blades currently include five players from Vicksburg and one from Schoolcraft.
Eddy has been coaching the Blades for five years, having played hockey while in high school at Portage Central. He is assisted by Brian Woodworth and Ben Blacker, the Western Michigan University goalie. “It’s an expensive sport as it is not a part of Vicksburg or Schoolcraft’s sanctioned teams. So the families have to pay the fees or help to raise funds for the teams to participate. Ice time at one of the area rinks can cost between $280 to $300 per hour and for games it adds up to over $900.”
The skill level is high and Eddy estimates that 95 percent of his players can go even further. Many of them have come up through the Kalamazoo Optimists Hockey Association, where they learn the fundamentals of the game.