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C. Oregon hockey players work toward big dreams — and some have to move far to do so

Teen hockey players in C.O. have outgrown the area; more than 20 athletes have moved to other states to play

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- When you think of Oregon sports, hockey may not come to mind first. But Bend is brewing talent -- and often, those with the desire to progress and excel in the sport end up traveling far away to pursue their dreams.

Jason Domitrovic, coach of the Bend Bullets, says Central Oregon has a few athletes with lots of potential.

"These are Olympic-bound athletes -- that’s their goal," he said. "They want to be professional athletes -- both the girls and the boys that we have."

The Pavilion in Bend is the only rink used for organized sports in Central Oregon. Between figure skating, curling, lessons, open skate, and adult and youth hockey, one sheet of ice is shared. Players who are serious about playing hockey may have the talent, but not the resources.

"Just cannot grow it any bigger, based on the lack of the ice time," Domitrovic told NewsChannel 21 recently. "You just cannot promise a parent that if you put your time and energy into this, you're going to get something back."

"It just doesn’t exist," he said.

Right now, more than 20 athletes from Central Oregon live in other states to play hockey. All of them are in high school and moved away from family and friends to pursue their dreams, something Domitrovic says is not an ideal situation.

"The families that have to come up with enough money to live here in the first place -- they have to now send their kids to other areas of the county to play hockey, because we don’t have a place that suffices them," he said.

While the players love Bend, they've outgrown Oregon.

Seth Sween, 16, lives with a host family in Wenatchee, Washington to make his dream a reality.

"Staying there (in Bend) wasn’t going to give us any opportunities especially not getting seen by scouts," Sween said. "Being in Oregon just is not the place to be."

Sween's hockey career began in Bend as a toddler, but he soon outgrew the Central Oregon competition.

He goes to school online and practices several times a day. Sween says while living in Wenatchee is not idea, the ice time is worth it.

"I feel like it’s the one place where nothing else matters, you know -- you like hop on the ice and it's just like you against the other team, you against yourself," he said. "You know, you just go out there and play like nothing else matters."

Lexy Ace, 17, shares a similar story.

Ace grew up playing roller hockey in Bend, but traded wheels for skates. Playing with boys until she was 14, Ace stood out from her peers -- sso much so, she was hand-picked by the top hockey school in the nation, Shattuck Saint Mary's in Minnesota, to play for its team.

Ace says her time in Minnesota has already improved her skills.

"it's super-nice we get to skate every day. We have two full rinks here and then a half-sheet, so we can practice whenever we want, after school, or when we don’t have a class," she said. "Which is super-nice to play hockey, like whenever we can."

But opportunity comes with sacrifice.

"Moving away from home is one of the main challenges, because obviously, we'd all prefer to stay in Bend," Ace said.

Both Sween and Ace are committed to their passion for hockey, with dreams of playing in college and hopefully for Team USA.

"My main goal right now is I'm focusing on college," Ace said. "Growing up, it was always the Olympics and now that I'm a little bit older, college right now."

"Playing for Team USA is every kid's dream," Sween said.

In four years, you just might see some familiar faces on the world's biggest stage.

Author Profile Photo

Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.

Comments

10 Comments

  1. Athletics are great lesson and life builders, however, in this country anyway, we’ve turned sports into life itself. Think about this world’s problems with the ongoing environmental catastrophes and the massive societal ills such as homelessness, crime and disease. Meanwhile we are building ever extravagant sports stadiums that cost billions of dollars and grooming our youth to fill those stadiums for ever clueless spectators that chow down on their over processed carbs while feeding their early onset Type-2 diabetes. To say this country’s obsession with spectator sport has reached obscene levels would be an understatement. The country has become seduced by hyper consumption while the world around us literally burns down. Instead of instilling grandiose ideas of fame and fandom, maybe we should tamp down the sports mania and instead instill morals and values upon our children that portend a planet and a society we can be proud of and not just entertained by.

    1. There wasn’t a coherent thought in that entire rant. You don’t have the first clue about the importance of sports and athletics in modern culture.

    2. See my post below . . . I grew up in the sport and none of what you mentioned was to be seen. The Olympic indoor ice sheets were built by volunteers with donated materials. The rinks are used by the schools during school time for PE and free skate every night and on weekends. The spectators came/come from all over the US and Canada and there are definitely NOT clueless. The kids go to college and many come back to continue the traditions. There isn’t any homelessness during the winter months (about 5-6 months out of the year), as temps can hit -60°F ambient, which doesn’t stop anyone from going out for sports or games. Lewlew, you have it all wrong!

    3. Completely agree. A small percent of athletes get college scholarships and even fewer will ever make the Olympics. I love sports for the life lessons and camaraderie. Many families way overrate their kids abilities and potential. I know of club sport teams in town where average/mediocre athletes are flown all over the country to compete against other decent but not that great athletes, which seems absurd given the current environmental cost of flying. It’s the everyone gets an award taken to the extreme.

  2. Having grown up in Warroad, MN (Hockeytown U.S.A.), I feel sorry for what the kids have to go through in Central Oregon. I miss the “FREE” skate to take my kids to and the hockey games, especially the Senior Men’s Amateur league games. I miss the quality of coaching that comes from Warroad, but at least I get to follow the kids HS games, the home town kids playing College Hockey, and of course, those that go on to play in the Olympics and Pro Hockey. Must not forget the quality of education is much higher back home as well. I grew up watching kids move to Warroad from Canada to play hockey in Warroad, the Lakers (men’s team) playing US National team or Team USA every year. And then there were the national teams of Sweden, Norway, Germany, Japan, Czechoslovakia, and Poland coming to town to play the home town team. Our coaches back them were Olympic Gold Medalists and a number of the players on the men’s team were former Olympians or US National team members. How things change, as you live in different areas. BTW, Warroad has a population of under 2,000, with 2 – Olympic indoor ice sheets and another dozen outdoor ice sheets. Something new is the miles long ice trail, where you can skate from home to all over town, linking outdoor rinks. For parents, they’re always hiring at Marvin Windows, Polaris, and many other places. Housing can be a bit hard to find, but if your kid is a good prospect, the locals seem to be able to find someplace for the kids or even homes for the family.

  3. 100% agreed. Parks and Rec. is funded by us tax-payers and it’s meant for recreation and promoting healthy life style of all of us. Mr. Domitrovic is vigorously promoting his private hockey program that serves families with deep pockets. I have nothing against building private sport complexes. However, don’t ask tax payers to fund it. This town could use additional outdoor/indoor pools for school children and families, more pickle ball courts for the public, roof covered skate/bike park, more soccer fields for kids, safe and designated bike paths, etc.

    1. There once were plans to put a pool and fitness center on Columbia Ave. close to the pavilion. Many of us voted yes on the parks and rec. bond to make that happen, along with the other measures on that bon. Unfortunately after the bond passed, the pool n fitness center plans were scrapped and the lot sold to OSU to be a parking lot, that rarely has a car on it. Sneaky and short sighted. With so many new people constantly moving here and unaware of even recent history, parks and rec as a separate entity to the city gets away some questionable moves and evades transparency and accountability

  4. I’m going to throw this out there . . . It’s going to take a dedicated group to form a not for profit group, to organize a public rink/complex. Get enough people together that want to see it happen, approach companies/business’, and individuals, to volunteer time/labor/materials/etc., and make it happen. It’s also called sponsorship(s). The city and business’ win through the people/teams coming in and the kids win. The biggest problem is going to be finding the people/volunteers to make it happen and then keep it going. Leagues and schools would all pay a use fee for ice time and games. That would bring up another issue . . . CO high school hockey league. There are people in Central Oregon of pulling this off, with no cost to the public funds (Maybe the city would donate the land or discount the price of the land in exchange for the revenue gained by people shopping in town when they come to the games). When the economy is down, private groups won’t have the money to spend to build on their own and when it is private, they demand to make money, which in the beginning just isn’t going to happen. When it comes to the city running it, they’ll cut corners and control the “season”, like they do now. There are ways to utilize the facility during the off season, to cover costs as well. Seen it done before . . .

  5. Academic athletics whether they be high school or collegiate have become cheap farming models for big major leagues to cherry pick and exploit. Yes, sports and athletics are critical to human health and contain all sorts of side benefits from learning about working with others to self discipline to learning how to win and both lose to good sportsmanship, leadership, sacrifice and that’s saying nothing of the sheer physiological and psychological benefits of exercise itself. However, what is often ignored is the commodification and exploitation of of student athletes in the endless quest for profits by these professional sports industries. One look at the incredibly lopsided budgets of sports programs within both high school and collegiate sports and the disparities are clear. Considering that almost all of a universities athletic budget is budgeted for football itself, and a distance second being basketball and then all the other sports are practically an afterthought forever begging for whatever minuscule budget is leftover. And then you have the real reason many of these sports receive any funding at all, which is to provide free athletic talent to the collegiate sports machine. I don’t think we need less sports, we just need more sports for sports’ sake and less sports for these mega multi-millionaire exploitation leagues.

    1. You have a very myopic view . . . There are many schools/universities where Hockey is the primary sport, such as UND, UM-Duluth, etc., and of course these schools are specifically in the PNW. Then you can also add the junior leagues to the mix. These schools are also noted for the quality of their education programs AND their contributions to society. Oregon’s entire education system leaves much to be desired, from pre-school through college/university. A good example is the doing away with standardized testing . . . supposedly because it’s racist. Our education system was/is failing, so Oregon is lowering the required standards. BOT – Besides Football and basketball, what are our main universities known for??? In other states, universities are known for 3, 4, and 5 quality sport teams. Those scholarships allow many more students to graduate. These are students that are not using public funding to gain their education, when their parents can’t afford the bill. FYI, while I had scholarships for music and a sport, my primary degree funding was the US Army and my debt was paid off in 6 years of service.

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