The climate in southern Arizona is a little different than that of southern Maine, but according to Regis Tremblay, ice hockey is more popular out there than some would believe.

“There are more kids playing hockey in Phoenix alone than there are in the State of Maine,” he says. “My kids started playing when they were seven or eight years old.”

Tremblay and his sons, Ryan and Tanner came to Cape Elizabeth from Phoenix to assist a relative who was ill. Both boys made this season’s Cape varsity hockey squad and Saturday at the Colisee in Lewiston they skated off the ice as state champions.

“It was a tough transition for them,” says their dad, “but playing sports has made it easier. Playing for a team that’s good makes it fun.”

Ryan came east last spring, just after hockey season, to help his uncle, Steven Tremblay, who uses a wheelchair due to a neck injury and had just returned home from the hospital after an infection.

Steven had been a pretty good hockey player himself in high school. In 1968 he was part of a Waterville team that lost to Lewiston in the state final, also at the Colisee. Steven’s team was able to get revenge by topping Lewiston for the New England title.

Ryan was home-schooled in the spring, but was able to play baseball with the Cape Elizabeth team. In the fall he enrolled at the school for his senior year and his brother Tanner, a freshman, came out from Arizona and joined him.

It took Ryan – who is not related to hockey coach Jason Tremblay – a while to feel like he was fitting in, but he says that his hockey teammates made the transition “as easy as possible” for him.

“They’re a great group of guys,” he adds. “They’ve made the season amazing.”

The newcomer has done his share as well. Ryan had a hat trick in the Capers 7-1 regional semifinal win over York. A week later, in the state final, Tremblay assisted on his team’s second goal and scored the final one in the 4-2 victory against Brewer.

“My line, with (Tom) Rich and (Andrew) Gibson – I couldn’t have done it without them,” he says. “We’re starting to play real well together, and we put a whole bunch of points on the board.”

Steven and Regis were both on hand Saturday to watch Ryan, Tanner and the rest of Cape’s team repeat as Class B champs. Regis was up in a corner of the last row, videotaping the game, while Steven was down at rink level. When Ryan scored late in the second period, a goal that gave his squad three-goal cushion at the time, Steven thrust one hand into the air.

“He’s having a great year,” Steven says. “And he’s been helping me a lot.”

Of course, Ryan came out to help a family member in need. In the grand scheme of things, that’s likely the most rewarding of his actions.

However, hoisting the trophy that says you are the top team in the state is pretty sweet, too.

“At first it was tough…leaving the end of my junior year, and coming here senior year,” Ryan says, “but in the end it’s paid off. It’s the best feeling to win a state championship.”

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