California’s and Nevada’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

Vacaville works hard to grow the game

 

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It’s not easy developing a hockey hotbed in the middle of a football town.

But that hasn’t stopped Bill Bowers and a number of dedicated volunteers in Vacaville who are focused on growing the game of hockey and perhaps stealing a bit of the spotlight from the gridiron at the same time.

In Vacaville, a city of around 100,000 located 35 miles southwest of Sacramento, hockey is thriving in part due to the work of a non-profit group led by Bowers, who serves as the Vacaville Jets’ president, that’s focused on making hockey accessible and affordable for all.

“We try and do things outside of the box that help our players with their dues, and also help give back to the community,” Bowers said. “Hockey is an expensive sport. We want to help the boys to be able to participate, but we also want them to realize that they are lucky to be able to play, and that translates into teaching them that it’s important to be able to give back to the community in some way.

“We all get so much joy out of watching these kids play. We’re trying to promote and grow the game – not just here, but all across Northern California.”

Every season, for example, the Jets organization runs an August BBQ called “Jets Day,” where 15 percent of all money raised is donated to the Solano County Food Bank while the remainder helps to offset costs to players.

With seven different teams in age groups ranging from Mites to Midgets currently operating as part of the Vacaville Jets Youth Hockey Organization, scholarships are available to players and families who need some additional support to play, which is run through a separate board that solely handles applications for assistance.

“We have a very robust board that handles the non-profit side of things, but we’ve also established another board that deals solely with distributing scholarships,” said Bowers, who has been a part of the non-profit board for four years.

“Everything is kept confidential among the scholarship board, and they do a terrific job of balancing out players who need some help with the funds we have available. We have a lot of quality people on both sides that have a lot of great ideas.”

Bowers doesn’t shy away from the fact that football is a huge draw for kids and parents alike in Vacaville, but instead of shying away from the shadow football might cast on sports with smaller enrollments, Bowers has lofty goals for the future of the Jets organization.

“Going forward, we want to be able to continue to grow as a group, add more boys teams, and eventually we hope to have enough girls come on board that they can have their own team and we can begin working on that side of things,” Bowers said. “We want to become the focus of Vacaville youth sports.

“We’re a hockey organization in a football town; there’s no way around it.

“There’s a deep root in the sport of football here, but there’s no reason why we can’t keep working and see if we can turn Vacaville from a football town into a hockey town.”

– John B. Spigott