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March 19, 2013 > They're Sharks Ice Hockey Players, but...

They're Sharks Ice Hockey Players, but...

By Steve Taylor

Daniel was bent over at the waist, eyes squeezed in pain, sweat beading on his forehead under a protective visor. But the technician in his late 20's, who works on cell towers for a living, is smiling happily mid-day on a Wednesday. Twice each week, Daniel and men from all walks of life, and an occasional lady, gather to play pickup ice hockey at the Sharks Ice At Fremont, the only ice rink in the Tri-Cities. Most in the Greater Tri-Cities know ice hockey at the professional level, watching the San Jose Sharks on TV, sprinting up and down the ice, passing the puck crisply, pausing only to crash into one another or fight. The half-dozen guys who showed up at a recent drop-in session were just happy to slap a puck around and stay upright.

"I've only skated a couple times in the last two years," wheezed Robb, a 40-something electrical engineer working for a local semiconductor company. Grinning and speaking in gasps between shifts on the bench, he added, "We got real busy again but I just had to sneak in a skate on my lunch break," then shakily swung a leg over the boards for another charge down the ice.

The pick-up action is admittedly slow and sloppy, but players like Darryl don't mind. He's in his 50's and works graveyard at the wastewater treatment plant. "I started playing hockey in my 30's," he said, "and I should be sleeping now, but I just couldn't miss this."

Any skater with a helmet, stick and shin pads can play on Wednesdays and Fridays from 11:45 to 1:15 for $13 and $15, respectively. Players have to create a free account and sign-up and pay online at the rink's website at www.sharksiceatfremont.com.

Online reviews of the rink and its various programs are mixed with hockey moms scattering complaints about the bleachers and cold temperature. One "Yelper" seemed to sum it up best a few months ago saying, "It's okay, though for being in Fremont it is a lot less busy than the one in San Jose, which could be a good thing for many (and) the camaraderie of all the people at the arena make for a better experience."

For the working professional who needs to get in, get a sweat and get back to work, the shower facilities at the rink are clean and work well. For the rink rat with a few extra hours in the day or between jobs, Stanley's Sports bar inside has a mountain chalet look and feel, with plenty of flat screen TVs tuned to the NHL Center Ice package and serves beer, wine, juices and fountain drinks. For the advanced or more committed player, the rink has leagues for different ages and levels.

Back on the ice, Anton was the youngest skater that session and acted like it. A college student, he carried the puck through the older, less skilled players until a stumbling reporter bumped him with a shoulder; hard. "Checking" or running into other players is prohibited during drop-in times but this is still hockey... even though it may not always look like it.

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