Monday, March 19, 2012

Hometown Hockey


                       by Stan Fischler

There are many ways of viewing springtime and sports.
If you’re a Yankees fan, you can start figuring out how they’re wasting their bundle and then turn to the six ways they’ll execute their traditional El Foldo in September.
If you’re a Mets fan, now’s the time to look ahead to 2022 – and beyond.
If you’re a basketball fan, you can immerse yourself – but don’t drown! – in the most over-hyped spring nuttiness, March Madness. (Fortunately, I step nimbly aside!)
And if you’re a hockey fan, there are several areas of focus, not the least of which include the beloved Rangers and their dauntless pursuit of The Stanley Cup.
While I’m professionally enthused about the Blueshirts, there’ll be plenty to shout about between now and when they reach the Stanley Cup Finals. For today, at least, I’d rather home in on some hometown hockey folks I admire as much as I do Sidney Crosby and Henrik Lundqvist.

As hockey people go, the sisters Teresa Marzec of Saugerties and Christie Casciano are a delightful duet: the kind of folks that an underdog sport such as hockey desperately need to keep it going on the youth level.

Teresa, a pediatric physical therapist for the Rondout Valley school district, does her hockey thing at the absolutely marvelous Kiwanis Rink in Saugerties, ably managed by Robbie Kleemann, who’s so good I’ll reserve a separate column for him.
Among other things, Teresa has done something I’d never heard of before in the ice sport: She hosted a “Mom’s Hockey Clinic,” which is holding forth weekly throughout this month.
“I had 22 women show up last Monday for lessons,” enthuses Teresa. (By the way, this lovely lass enthuses as easily as she exhales and that’s one of the reasons for her success as a people-person.) Continued...
Along with Kleemann and innumerable other volunteers, Teresa has been deeply involved with the Kiwanis Rink’s minor hockey program which has doubled in size over the past decade.
“This year marks the first time that our Midget (level) team has made it to the state championships in Syracuse,” Teresa proudly points out. “We’ve also developed a program called ‘Learn To Play Hockey’ for adults to teach them how to play the game and develop them into hockey players.” (The Maven would enter, but I learned the ice game at the Brooklyn Ice Palace in 1954.)
Having lobbied for an ice rink in Kingston ever since Shirley and I moved up here four decades ago, I feel a kinship for the Kiwanis folks, not only for what they accomplished in getting an arena built, but for the superior manner in which their programs are operated on every age level. Hockey mothers such as Mrs. Marzec do the good things they do as a labor of love.
“One of the things I like about it,” Teresa explains, “is that I get to meet the most fascinating people and then develop lifelong relationships. That’s really special.”

The term “special” applies equally as well to sis Christie, a newscaster for Channel 9 in Syracuse. How’s this for a balancing act: When she’s night-working the cameras or thrusting her mike for interviews, Mrs. Casciano writes children’s books while also raising a couple of kids who play hockey.

“It’s a delicate balancing act,” Christie explains. “I’m working an evening shift, so that gives me time to write while the kids are at school.”

Her first kids book, “Puck Hog” was so good I read it twice to my 9-year-old grandson, Ezra, and will soon be reading it to my 5-year-old Israeli grandson, Ariel, who just started to skate in the country’s only ice rink.

Christie’s literary opener was so critically acclaimed that she has just completed a sequel called “Haunted Hockey In Lake Placid, The Puck Hog, Volume Two.” It will be released in October and has been set in the famed Adirondack Olympic village for a reason.

"Of all the hockey tournaments we’ve been to,” Christie explains, “my son’s Lake Placid tourney by far was the most memorable. Or, as my 10-year-old likes to say, ‘magical.’”

The beauty part of “Puck Hog” was its message – essentially that hockey is a team sport and puck hogs – the selfish players who won’t pass the biscuit – have to somehow be straightened out. Continued...

Casciano: “I hope that more hockey teams – and their coaches – pick up on the importance of teaching this lesson of teamsmanship early on. If we can get the kids to take their eyes off themselves and to show the importance of using their gifts and talents to elevate others, we’re not only going to see better teams but create better memories and experiences for our kids.”

One issue that perplexes me after more than a half-century of covering hockey is what role fighting should play in the game – if any – on any level, but especially with kids. Christie wastes no time answering my question.

“I would like to see them end fighting on the ice. Hockey shouldn’t be about going out and hurting other kids. What happens now is that kids emulate what they see in the NHL and it can get pretty ugly – especially on the high school level.”

As she does in “Puck Hog,” Casciano stresses sportsmanship on and off the ice. One recent episode deeply moved her after a bitter goalie on an opponents team refused a post-game handshake ritual with her son’s team.

“I was so impressed with that kid’s coach,” concludes Christie, “because he took a stand and set a great example to his kids. He sent that goalie – who refused to shake hands – into our locker room where he apologized and then shook every kids’ hand. Now that was classy.”

Classy? You bet, just like the hockey sisters, Teresa and Christie!

Author-columnist-commentator Stan “The Maven” Fischler resides in Boiceville and New York City. His column appears each week in the Sunday Freeman.

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