For the fun of the game


GOOD OLD HOCKEY GAME:  The ski patrol’s team (white) defeated the lift attendants’ team (black) in novice league action on Jan. 7.
GOOD OLD HOCKEY GAME: The ski patrol’s team (white) defeated the lift attendants’ team (black) in novice league action on Jan. 7. – Photo by Jamie Shinkewski

The Sun Peaks Hockey League takes place in a fun, no pressure atmosphere that gives people new to Canada a chance to try the national pastime.

Unlike your typical night of hockey, the SPHL strongly encourages players who have little or no playing experience.

The league plays every Thursday night and has just under 120 players on 12 teams. Two thirds of the teams play in the novice division.

“It’s a good, fun atmosphere, especially in the novice league where half the people can barely stand up on skates when they start and four or five weeks in they can actually get down the ice without falling over,” said SPHL rookie Vicky Rutherford, who had never played hockey before moving to Sun Peaks from England.

“It’s all friendly. Everyone’s just laughing as they’re tripping over each other and trying to knock the puck around,” said Australian rookie Richie Barlow.

The games are competitive, but played in a friendly manner where coworkers challenge each other and rivalries form between different factions of the ski hill.

For example, the most anticipated game of the night on Jan. 7 pitted the lift attendants’ team against the ski patrol’s team. The players of the previous games, as well as groups of friends, lined the side of the arena to cheer and jeer.

“I thought it was great fun,” said Sam Riggs, who was playing in his first ever hockey game. “For an experience from an Englishman it was different but with the players we’ve got, with the fans we’ve got chanting and cheering all the time, we had a solid game.”

For international workers in Sun Peaks it also gives them a taste of Canadian culture.

“Toes are a bit numb, the (skates) are not as comfy as football boots, but I’ll get used to it,” Riggs said.

“I think there is one rink in my city. I’d never even watched it on TV or anything,” said Australian Casey Lambert, who also made her SPHL debut on Jan. 7.

Although they are only starting their hockey careers, each of the SPHL’s rookies are eager to improve their skills.

“I can actually get the puck down the ice. I still can’t score, but I can get it down the ice,” Rutherford said. “Eventually in another four years I might be in the (advanced) league.”

“It’s a really good crew out here all helping me out and encouraging me,” Lambert said. “My butt is a bit sore but it’ll happen, I’ll learn.”

Now that they have had a taste of hockey, will they return to the ice?

“I’ve got to, haven’t I? I’m going to come back and I’m going to pop one or two in I think this season,” Riggs said. “I’m calling it now, I’m calling two goals and one assist.”

“I’ll be back every week,” added Lambert.