William Lobor figures he wouldn’t know how to skate, let alone play wing on a hockey team, without Portland Hockey Trust’s weekly hockey training.
The free after-school program has given Portland elementary students an opportunity to get out on the ice, fully equipped, for a couple of hours a week in the late winter and spring for 20 years. The program wrapped up its season Friday with an annual “trophy game,” at which the kids could put their newly learned skills to the test in a fun scrimmage.
Lobor, 10, said that when he signed up for the Friday program three years ago, he had never been on skates. Now, he not only can zip around on the ice; he also knows his role.
“Once in a while I score,” he said, “but usually I pass.”
Portland Hockey Trust, an organization founded to expand youth hockey programs in the city, has been passing on those nuances since it began when a few parents were unhappy that the middle school hockey program was so small that some kids were cut from the team.
“We felt everyone should get a chance to play,” said Jim Harmon, who, along with his wife, Wendy, Nancy Troubh and former Portland School Superintendent Tom Edwards, got the program up and running.
Eventually, the middle school hockey program was beefed up, so the focus was shifted to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. The program has now grown into a feeder system, with kids learning the basics of the game in elementary school and sticking with it through middle and high school.
Edwards noted that everything is free. The city donates the ice time at the Portland Ice Arena on Park Avenue, saving Portland Hockey Trust $150 an hour. All of the equipment – helmets, pads, pucks and skates – is donated, and Edwards said that some years the program has so much gear that it is able to give some to other youth hockey organizations. The coaches are volunteer parents and “junior coaches” who started out with the Portland Hockey Trust program and stayed with the game. At Friday’s scrimmage, two eighth-graders and a ninth-grader were giving tips and helping to officiate the game.
Catherine Anderson of Portland said the hockey camp has quickly become the favorite activity of the year for her son, Sammy.
“This was one of the first activities that he would remind me about the night before,” she said.
Anderson said she also likes the inclusive nature of the program, pointing out that the skaters on the ice included African-American children, like her son, taking part in a sport that has few minority role models. And, she said, she likes the fact that boys and girls play side by side.
Harmon said that reflects the idea which led to the founding of the program.
“We put the notice out to the schools: ‘Anybody who wants to play hockey, come out and play hockey,’” he said. “That set the tone, because it worked.”
Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: