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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.

Article Topic Follows: Olympic Zone

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Carly Keenan

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


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