FOTOS INC: Atom hockey is where it’s at

Western News photographer Mark Brett says it's a smile a minute when the youngest hockey players hit the ice

Looking for a bigger entertainment bang for your sports buck? Then weekends and evenings at the Memorial Arena may be just the ticket.

Especially if you are lucky enough to catch a novice or atom minor hockey league game where most of the players would easily fit into their gear bags.

While there is no jumbotron scoreboard (roughly the size of a small detached house) to watch replays and nowhere to snag a brewski, the on-ice action more than make up for any deficiencies.

While body checking is no longer allowed at this level, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any physical contact except it’s usually between teammates.

And besides in the big leagues you won’t see plays like the multi-man take out, something I like to refer to as the domino effect.

It begins with coaches yelling at a wayward forward skating in circles in his own end while the remaining nine skaters are in front of the net at the far end of the ice.

They are all swinging their sticks wildly at something that may or may not be there.

Once Johnny realizes his error he begins to skate the length of the ice gaining momentum with each eight or nine strides

Crossing centre ice, everything looks good until he trips over the blue line and quickly becomes a human projectile.

As he reaches the crowd at the net, bodies begin flying and Johnny careens skates-first into the boards.

No harm, no foul and soon everyone is back on their feet and good to go.

And then there is the “mysterious” injury where somebody on the bench spots a player lying in the far corner of the rink where the play has not been for several minutes.

Lying there motionless, this appears to be serious and as the coach heads out onto the ice I’m all ready to dial 911.

But wait, there appears to be some movement, slowly he gets to his feet and is helped back to the bench, the tears still visible through the metal web of the face mask.

Once again, there does not appear to be any serious damage and he’s back on his line for the next shift.

One of my favourite places to take pictures of the games is between the benches, not only for the perspective but to listen to the coaches.

Incidently, there should be special awards of patience given out to those who tirelessly volunteer their time day and night to stand behind the benches.

Listening as their yells turn to hollering and screaming at players, which by their actions on the ice have apparently gone unheard.

“Billy, you’re offside.”

Louder

“Billy, get out there, you’re still offside.”

Quietly

“How many times?”

However when Billy comes over for the line change it’s a pat on the back and “good job guy, way to keep them guessing.”

This particular game was a close one, the black team won by a margin of a touchdown and field goal.

Goal celebrations at this level put anything you might see in professional football to shame.

Often the goal scorer slides on one knee to the bench with arms outstretched with the remainder of the line high fiving the other players on the bench and then down to the goalie and repeat.

The game result doesn’t seem to make any difference as both sides go to centre ice and shake hands, or some version of that, and head off to their dressing rooms.

So to enjoy the sport in its truest fashion, save that buck and head to Memorial where the admission is always free.

Very good value.

Mark Brett is a photographer and writer at the Penticton Western News