Youth hockey is booming in the Rose City: 'Not just about hockey, but life'
It's a Thursday evening at the Winterhawks Skating Center in Beaverton. The Portland Jr. Winterhawks 18-and-under A1 (18uA1) travel team Is getting ready for practice.
"I love hockey,” says Ross Scott, a 17-year-old from West Linn, who plays Center on the Winterhawks 18uA1 team. "It's a really fun way to meet new people. Get out all of your anger if you have some and you know, just have a lot of fun on the ice."
Marbin Lim is 18 years old and is a left winger. He’s from New Zealand, and moved to the Portland area five years ago.
"It's a lot of fun. It's a great group of guys," says Lim. "Coaching is really good. We have fun at practices and all of that, but it's still a very dialed in team and really hard, so it's the best hockey I've played in a while."
Lim mentioned the coaching. The head coach is Paul Gaustad, who spent 14 years in the National Hockey League playing center with Buffalo and Nashville. Paul grew up in Beaverton and walked the same steps as these young hockey players.
"It seems like just yesterday, but it's like 15 years ago, 20 years ago. But it's really fun to get back here and I remember my days growing up here and playing youth hockey here. It's a good time. Same rink and everything," Gaustad tells KATU News.
Gaustad retired from the NHL three years ago and is not only a coach, but he’s the President of the Portland Jr. Winterhawks Youth Association, which starts at 5 years old and goes up to High School age. They have about 600 kids playing, including his son on the 18uA1 team.
"We have a lot of fun," says Gaustad. “It's the highest level team we've had in almost 20 years represent Portland and everybody's bought in."
The traveling team will leave this month to play in the Pacific Regional Tournament in Las Vegas, hoping to make Nationals.
"We've already been to Dallas, Detroit, Chicago, Arizona," says Lim. "We've been to Canada like four times, or something like that."
"It’s incredible. I mean, when you’ve got guys like Paul Gaustad and them just running the show and he has so much experience and not just about hockey, but life, to give you and it’s just awesome," said Scott.