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Dek hockey: Hold the ice

posted Aug 18, 2011, 5:50 PM by Web Master   [ updated Aug 18, 2011, 5:58 PM ]

The Lowell Sun     
By Dan Phelps        

Published: 08/17/2011 06:36:03 AM EDT

It's just like ice hockey. Except there's no ice. And no checking. And no fighting.

OK, so it's not just like ice hockey.

But dek hockey is close enough to have a lot of local parents signing up a lot of local kids to play at the Greater Lowell Dek Hockey Center in Chelmsford.

Nestled behind Gold's Gym off Parkhurst Road on the outskirts of Drum Hill, the GLDHC is home to leagues for kids and adults. The center has divisions for the following age groups: 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, and 16 and older, the older including a player who is 55.

What is dek hockey? In the old days, you would have called it street hockey. Except it's not played on the street. Dek hockey (the name of which is derived from a Canadian term) is street hockey played on a rink. Except it's not an ice rink. The rink is 160 feet by 80 feet and made up of thousands of plastic tiles.

According to John Descoteaux, president of GLDHC, most of ice-hockey's rules apply. But if you fight, you get a four-game suspension. A second scuffle and you're out of there.

And if you think you might miss the slam-bang style of the NHL, you might be OK with the no-fighting rules when you see Micky Ward on the other side of the court.

Ward has played at the GLDHC in the past, though he took this past summer off due to a burgeoning schedule in the wake of last December's Oscar-winning movie, The Fighter, based on the retired Lowell boxer's career. (And yes, Ward confirms, a sequel is in

the works, one that will include his epic trilogy of fights against Arturo Gatti.)

Descoteaux will tell you Ward wasn't the most stylish player at the GLDHC. Ward will tell you it's a little easier than going 10 rounds with the late Gatti, which he did three times.

"At least you're not getting punched," Ward says of dek hockey. "It's great conditioning, though. It's basically sprinting the whole time."

GLDHC opened two years ago, but Descoteaux says the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup this year has done wonders for the center.

"We just about doubled registrations since the Stanley Cup. We didn't have a summer league in the past, but this summer we had about 200 kids," says Descoteaux, who started the league with Mike Comtois and Rick Dupuis, who owns Gold's Gym.

Descoteaux says he and his friends would have to drive to Leominster to play dek hockey until they decided to open their own rink. They were hoping to find a spot in Lowell, "but everything was too expensive." Dupuis then looked out the window of the gym and saw an empty piece of land. The GLDHC was born.

One of the other differences between ice hockey and dek hockey, Descoteaux points out, is the cost. A 10-game season will run you $105, and players need a helmet, stick, gloves and elbow pads.

"In ice hockey, you'll spend two to three grand just to play and another few hundred in equipment, and that's a factor in today's economy for a lot of parents," he says.

"A lot of parents tell us their kids have aspirations to play ice hockey, but they want them to learn the finer points of the game and see if they like it first. Why make the huge investment until you see if the kid really likes the game?"

Ward adds, "It's good for keeping your stick-handling skills up, too."

The fall league for kids begins after Labor Day.

There will be open houses at the rink today and tomorrow from 7-9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

As Descoteaux says, "Hey, it's keeping kids off the street."

And on dek.

Dan Phelps' email address

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