Hitmen Heat up the Ice in Czech Republic: Hagerstown Hockey

Hitmen Heat up the Ice in Czech Republic
Hagerstown Hockey
by Jennifer LB Leese

The modern game of hockey originated in Canada in the 1800s, and the first modern indoor hockey game was played in Montreal in 1875. By the 1890s the sport won hearts and aroused passions, spreading to the United States. There have always been star players who have won the admiration of the crowd; players like AurÑl Joliat, Maurice Richard, Jacques Plante, Jean BÄliveau, Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux, and Patrick Roy-to name a few. Hockey has become part of our culture.
Since 1917 the National Hockey League (NHL), with teams in both countries, has been the primary professional association.
The atmosphere of an ice hockey game is quite simply euphoric. Children playing hockey in the streets with tattered sticks or shooting a chunk of bark into a homemade goal on the ice during the winter, dream of one day becoming part of the National Hockey League. When exceptional players emerge, legends are created, enriching our lives and future generations.
The passion for hockey is the passion for victory, and the ultimate victory is symbolized by a single silver bowl known as the Stanley Cup.
Hagerstown has a few star players who, I'm sure, will one day hold the silver bowl. They're on their way to the Czech Republic to heat up the ice.
J.P. Mattingly, ex-trainer for the Washington Capitals and the New Jersey Devils, wanted "his guys [hockey team] to go over and experience hockey in another country and experience a different culture". Coach Mattingly has friends in the Czech Republic who asked him if he could bring some teams over. Wanting to do a big trip for the kids, Coach Blackwood, Coach Mattingly and a few others searched to put teams together. The hockey team, with 15 to 18 year-olds, went to the Czech Republic 6 weeks ago and is going again on March 21 through the 30.
Coach Mattingly informed me that hotels are attached to the rinks in the small towns in the Czech Republic and that each of those rinks has professional European Hockey teams playing in them.
The kids are going over as "Mattingly Hockey" with 15 parent volunteers. "We do it for the fun of it and for the guys to learn a little bit more of the game," says Coach Mattingly.
Matt Warrenfeltz, 15 1/2-year-old wing on the Hagerstown Hitmen team, went on the Czech Republic trip 6 weeks ago. "It was awesome. I had a blast. It was fun. Everybody is really friendly over there." Matt says that they went skiing while on the trip and they bus trips and walking tours of the towns. When asked how he felt about going back so soon, he smiled, behind his helmet and said, "I'm thrilled. It's unbelievable."
Matt Burns, the goalie, also went on the trip 6 weeks ago. "The hockey there is really unbelievable, it's really competitive," he said while preparing to go on the ice. "We had a blast. They skate so hard, which makes you work harder and harder."
Jamie Blackwood, assistant coach for the team going over said, "Hockey is a very demanding sport on the body." Coach Blackwood feels that people associated with their team, the Hagerstown Hitmen Hockey Club" should show only positive attitudes and refrain from negative comments and actions. "A negative attitude shows a lack of maturity and control which gets in the way of playing good hockey." Hitmen in no way reflects anything negative. "The kids liked the name, so we kept it," admits Coach Blackwood.
Coach Blackwood hopes this article gives the team a little recognition and will also generate sponsors and donations for the team.
"Without money benefactors, hockey becomes an expensive sport," said Coach Blackwood. "We encourage sponsors and we try to have fundraisers throughout the year to help with the cost associated with hockey." If you're interested in helping our local teams out contact Jamie Blackwood at 301-573-8672 (leave a message) or call the Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex.
Coach Blackwood would also like to see more players. Hockey tryouts begin in August with practices starting in mid-September and lasting until the beginning of April.