LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Hockey is great for Odessa

I would like to start by providing you the history of how I became an avid hockey supporter. I hope this will emphasize how unique ice hockey is to our area. I grew up in a small West Texas town where there were only 3 sports – football, basketball and track. I didn’t have a clue what ice hockey was all about until college. After graduation, I moved back to West Texas and the Permian Basin to pursue my career. I discovered there was a hockey team in, of all places, Odessa, Texas. I attended my first hockey game and was immediately “hooked” to the exclusion of all other sports. I discovered the Jackalopes have a youth organization, and I registered my sons to play hockey when they were 4 and 5 years old. They are naturals on the ice, love the sport and continually improve their skills. My youngest son has commented to his grandmother that he didn’t think he could live without hockey. Now that my sons are 13 and 14 years old, we may be losing the ability to continue to develop youth hockey and may lose it altogether in Odessa.

Ice hockey exists in Odessa because the Jackalopes organization partnered with the county to have an ice rink in the county coliseum. Although grateful for the partnership, this unfortunately limits ice availability to only during hockey season. This limited availability is due to other county events taking precedence. Fortunately, the shopping mall in our area had an ice rink. The Jackalopes organization and youth hockey program had been allowed access to this rink for practices and youth tournaments when the coliseum ice was unavailable. Youth hockey continues to grow in our hot, dry area. Hockey has proven to be a strong, positive influence and helps to develop these young athletes into well rounded, mature adults. I have watched my sons continue to love the sport and improve their skills. They both hope to continue playing hockey in their future. My youngest son idolizes Wayne Gretzky. Whenever he has a school project on a famous person, he always picks Wayne Gretzky for the report. He even tucks his jersey in his pads the same as Wayne. Several coaches have indicated he has a lot of talent and potential and is one of the best hockey players in the state of Texas in his age group. If this is true, I want to always be able to give him every opportunity possible to continue his development. I am very proud that he, not only gets to play a sport that he loves, but also has the potential to move forward with his dream of playing in the NHL.

Odessa, Texas is in its 25th year of having a hockey team. Unfortunately, this year we are facing the possibility of losing hockey. The shopping mall’s ice plant has broken. Currently there is no ice for teams’ practices. The mall has decided not to replace the ice plant and will discontinue having the rink. Additionally, there is no ice availability at the county coliseum during the summer and early fall due to previously scheduled events. It is difficult to have a program that will continue to develop and grow our youth hockey organization with ice available for teaching only 3 to 5 months out of the year when the county puts it in the coliseum for our NAHL team. I am concerned that this will have a significant negative affect on the youth organization.

The Jackalopes organization has been a strong member of this community for 25 years and has helped to develop the children of our community into strong successful members of this great city. It is now time for the community to come together and show our support. We need to now, individually, companies, and corporations this area has supported for so many years, come together, as a unified community, to help the Jackalopes fulfill the need to have a permanent sheet of ice – not only for the hockey organization’s development and growth but also for the community’s enjoyment of public skating, parties, figure skating and coaching classes, and even the potential development of newer sports such as curling. This is a great opportunity for us to support our city and to ensure that ice sports remain in West Texas. Odessa had the potential to lead the area and be a powerhouse in ice sports. Let’s keep Ice Hockey a permanent institution in the Permian Basin and West Texas.

Please contact the Odessa Jackalopes office for any question and with all the support you can provide.

Steve Wade