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The Ice Age: High School Hockey on the Rise

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
The common Silicon Valley teenager has a pulse on technology, pop culture, and often defines “free time” as a trip to the beach, day in the city, or nights spent hanging out downtown. With a diverse climate that eliminates the chance of snow you wouldn’t expect to find a typical Bay Area teen engaged with ice sports like hockey. But then again those who play the sport are anything but typical.

Sharks Ice at San Jose offers programs and leagues for die-hard hockey fans to beginners. No program has grown at such an astounding rate as the high school hockey league. Started in 2000-01 with four teams, the club is now comprised of 13 teams (including four high schools with their own team): Castro Valley Raptors, San Jose Smurfs, Bellarmine Bells (JVW, JVN, and Varsity), Los Gatos/ Westmont Wildcats, Redwood City Polars (JV and Varsity), Bay Area Jelly Bellys, East Bay Mustangs, Mitty Monarchs, Peninsula Lions, and Valley Christian Warriors. The biggest challenge is finding ice time for practices and games.

The players are all between the ages of 15-18 years old, a trend that would indicate they have all grown with Sharks hockey itself. In a different time and era maybe these kids would’ve been basketball or football stars, but the growth of the San Jose Sharks franchise since 1991 is the only explanation for the huge boom in hockey rinks, fans, and players.

The season end is swiftly approaching with Championships this weekend, Round Robin today, and tomorrow will determine which of the San Jose Smurfs, Bellarmine JV Navy, or Castro Valley Raptors will get a chance for some helmet to helmet combat in the Championships on Sunday, April 20.

As the only high school league in Northern California it shows great success with its tremendous growth. Bellarmine High School fielded three teams this year, up from only one last year. Valley Christian, the defending Champions from last year have two teams this season instead of one. The other eight teams are mixed student bodies, which represent 30 different schools throughout the surrounding areas. Reaching from Salinas to San Mateo on the Peninsula and as far East as Danville and North to Oakland, it is not surprising that the league will see participation from 250 students this season (number expected to increase with the addition of new ice facilities in the Sharks Ice chain).

The teams practice after school once per week and show-off their prowess with either Friday of Saturday night games.

There are many great stories of success for each team. Valley Christian Warriors player, Paula Romanchuck, who plays amongst the boys is considered the best female hockey player in her age group in Northern California. Recently agreeing to attend Princeton University (maintaining a GPA of 4.5), she shows promise as a potential future USA Hockey Olympian.

Then there is Bellarmine Goalie, Vinny Lopopolo, who became very ill in 2006 from Addison’s disease, has since recovered and returned to the ice on the Bellarmine Varsity team. Another Bellarmine come-back kid is Brett Johnson who had heart surgery twice in the fall of 2007. Just two weeks later he returned to Jr. Sharks AA hockey and his Bellarmine team.

With the Championships looming on Sunday, competition is really heating up as teams contend for the Championship spots. For more details on the facilities, programs, and leagues, click here.

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