PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — In an area more suited to sand than ice … who knew hockey would become so popular? The players have a theory on why.
Forward Andrew Schmit says, “The people in the south love their football. They like big hits and roughhousing and that’s kind of my style of play.”
“It’s fast, there’s a lot of action, you can yell and scream at the refs and the teams and it’s all okay,” says Greg Harris, Pensacola Ice Flyers owner.
“The speed of the game may also play into its popularity,” says Defenseman Jesse Kessler, “You don’t really realize how fast we’re going because we’re gliding. It’s about 20 miles an hour or so, give or take. There’s a lot of force generated in those collisions.”
The Pensacola Ice Flyers have also collided with the hearts of fans in Northwest Florida.
Coach Rod Aldoff says, “Without the fans, we wouldn’t be here.”
Kessler adds, “When you have thousands of people in this arena cheering you on, it’s great!”
Fans and the team do love the physicality, and maybe the idea of a little on-rink needling.
Schmit says with a laugh, “Guys respect each other on the ice for sure, but it’s still fun to get under each other’s skin.”
“Some guys are pretty hilarious,” says Kessler.
Goalie Brian Billett says hockey is also a brain-game.
“It’s one of those things where you have to have a short term memory loss, whether it’s a loss, or a goal, or a penalty. It can define your game,” says Brian Billett, Ice Flyer goalie.
Both brains and bodies are focused on coming back from a disappointing start to the season.
“The effort’s always been there and the desire and the hard work has always been there. And we’re playing better since after Christmas,” says Aldoff
Maybe there’s extra effort, desire and hard work because this team is about more than hockey. It’s about life…and family.
“There’s a lot of life lessons you can learn while playing hockey. Discipline, determination, perseverance, and of course you gotta get back up b/c a play doesn’t stop when you fall,” says Schmit.
Billett adds, “You’ve got to be able to skate, shoot, do all the right things on the ice, but you’ve got to be a good person.”
Much like with any other job, you’re gonna have adversity and struggles and having that family, having that can pick each other up when you’re down, I think that’s going to be very big for us.”
The Pensacola Ice Flyers play three home games this weekend, starting Friday night. For more information on tickets and the remaining schedule go to their website: www.pensacolaiceflyers.com