Storm gets behind high school’s popularity
High school hockey’s growth and popularity is soaring at a meteoric pace in California, and its neighbors to the east are studying up on its success in an effort to eventually form a league of their own.
The Nevada Storm organization has taken the lead on icing the state’s first-ever high school team this season. The club is comprised of players representing a handful of schools throughout the Las Vegas Valley.
“This is the first step towards building high school hockey here in Las Vegas, and it’ll afford us the ability to provide more players the opportunity to play hockey all the way through their high school careers,” said the team’s head coach, Dell Truax.
The Storm will play a four-game exhibition series against teams within the flourishing Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (ADHSHL) this season, as well as compete in two ADHSHL-hosted tournaments in Anaheim and San Jose.
Truax credits the Storm’s leadership, including owner John Brooks, hockey director Gabe Gauthier and assistant hockey director Matt Johnson, for supporting the initiative with gusto.
“They’re all on board and fully behind ensuring the path of high school hockey in Las Vegas succeeds,” said Truax. “They’ve put a lot of time into this new program, and are prepared to continue to put the work in to grow this initial venture into a full league.”
And the Storm is taking plenty of notes from the burgeoning ADHSHL, which began with one team in 2008 and now boasts 48 in six divisions.
Matt Blanchart, commissioner of the ADHSHL, has been a valued asset for the Storm as it relates to architecting a successful high school outfit, said Truax.
“He’s been a huge help,” said Truax. “He’s explained the Ducks’ league, how it’s grown and how it’s run. They’re great advocates for high school hockey in our part of the country.
“Right now, our goal is to play in that league and continue to grow a strong partnership with them and accept all the help they can give us.”
The Storm’s inaugural high school roster includes: forwards Ethan Crisp, Caleb Day, Clayton Dreyer, Kenneth Greenwald, Trevor Lewis, Ethan VanMuyden, Patrick Voors, Jacob Walo, Takota Waters Foss, David Wolf and Joseph Zito; defensemen Patrick Conroy, Seth Montoya, Stephen Smetany, Cody Parker, Alexander Speake and Gary Winterburn; and goaltenders Gage Dunakoskie and Timothy Tochum.
Gauthier, Johnson, Ryan Trujillo and David Voors assist Truax behind the bench. Sandra Owens is the team’s manager.
“Our goal here is to grow the game, and we’re beginning to put together a model and plan of how we’ll do that,” said Truax.
The first step, says Truax, was forming a composite team (players from multiple schools) and putting a modest game schedule in place while at the same creating a positive culture and identity.
“Then, it’s important that we compete with pride and sportsmanship on our trips to California this season,” said Truax. “We need to prove we’re ready to become a part of the league, both on and off the ice.”
Next, says Truax, is growing the segment by courting more players in an effort to add more varsity and junior varsity teams.
“They’ll be composite at first, but our goal is to continue to grow this age group to the point where we have pure teams (all players from the same school), in addition to composite,” said Truax, noting that the Storm will promote the initiative to both public and private schools.
“In 3-5 years, we hope to have our own league playing here in Vegas.”
Best of all, says Truax, is the ability to afford local hockey players the opportunity to represent their schools.
“Once we really get this going, all of these teams will be embedded into their school’s culture, and the stands will be full of students and friends supporting these players,” he said. “There’s a strong sense of pride in playing for your school.”
– Brian McDonough