Tampa Bay youth hockey on the rise - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa Bay youth hockey on the rise

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OLDSMAR, FL (WFLA) -

It happens so regularly, you could set your clock, or calendar to it. Whenever the Winter Olympics roll around, parents and children start catching the skating or hockey bug, race out to the nearest rink and sign up for lessons or teams.

The Tampa Bay Skating Academy in Oldsmar is no exception and one of many bay area facilities where youth hockey is gaining steam and not just because of the Sochi Olympics.

"Once the kids start, they usually come in and start with Hockey 101," said hockey parent Frank Santoyo, who has a son playing for River Ridge High School and another in the squirts age group.

"That gets them started. And after that, they place them on a team, it's real easy. Once they start playing, they fight to get on the rink. They're always banging open the doors trying to get on. So, once they start, they're hooked."

The word hooked totally describes the Fischetti family. Since their children were introduced to the sport, every weekend and most weekdays are spent near the ice. 11-year-old Chris Fischetti gave up baseball for hockey and said one of the toughest things was learning to skate.

"It was really tough, because you always have to start on figure skates first," Fischetti said. "And then you move up to hockey skates and then when you move up to hockey skates, you try to play hockey, then you start out with hockey 101 and then you go onto a team."

"It is absolutely fun and exciting," Karen Fischetti said. "It is rewarding to see your children grow with the sport they absolutely love. And my husband, who also plays hockey and is a coach. To see him spend the time with our children, interacting with them and teaching the children what he knows is really exciting."

Then, there's Fischetti's daughter, Lexi. As one of only two girls on her team, Lexi, who began playing last February, says playing hockey is a great release and helps clear her mind while having a good time.

"It's just really fun," Fischetti said.

"Everybody at my school says, 'Oh, you're a girl, you play hockey?' I go, 'Yeah, I'm a girl and I play hockey.' I can get out there and be tough and get off the ice and be a girl."

The Tampa Bay Lightning are doing their best to promote youth hockey. For example, the franchise recently hosted Hockey Day in Tampa Bay. That included a high school all-star game, a sled hockey exhibition game featuring former players such as Dave Andreychuk, Brian Bradley and Chris Dingman, and the finals of The Lightning Cup, which showcases some of the area's top high school teams. Bradley says the Sochi Olympics has parents excited about getting their children involved with the sport.

"You know, the level of play not only in the all-star games here in high school, but the level of play in all of the hockey teams in the greater Tampa Bay area in all of the rinks and youth sports is better," said Bradley.

"It's improved tremendously over the last 5-10 years and it's great to see for Tampa Bay."

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.


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