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GLDHC in the News

posted Aug 15, 2011, 3:26 PM by Web Master   [ updated Aug 15, 2011, 3:40 PM ]

Greater Lowell Dek Hockey offers adult, youth leagues

By Stephen Tobey/Staff Writer
Posted Aug 11, 2011 @ 11:15 AM


To get up a game of street hockey, one can find a vacant parking lot or a tennis court or maybe a quiet neighborhood street or a large driveway. 

Or you can go to a place like Greater Lowell Dek Hockey.

Hidden behind the Gold’s Gym in Chelmsford is Greater Lowell Dek Hockey, a regulation 160x80-foot enclosed rink with plastic boards, a surface of plastic tiles, bleachers and a working scoreboard.

The facility runs youth and adult leagues year-round, though the busiest times of year are in the fall and spring.

“We try to do a winter league if the weather is OK,” said John Descoteaux, who runs Greater Lowell Dek Hockey with Mike Comtois and Rick Dupuis.

Dek hockey is played according to ice hockey rules, with six players on the rink at a time, but with a no-bounce plastic ball. Players run instead of skate. There is no checking allowed and fighting is strictly forbidden. The games are played in three 10-minute periods, with the clock stopping during dead-ball situations.

Players are required to wear shin pads, gloves and elbow pads. Youth players are required to wear helmets with cages. Helmets are optional for adults. Goalies wear leg pads, a blocker, a catching glove and a mask, similar to the ones ice hockey players wear.

The game is called dek hockey because of the rink’s surface, which is made of modular plastic tiles, which forma deck.

“Instead of the street, we have this plastic surface,” Descoteaux said. “It’s easier on the knees.”

During the spring and fall, about 600 players compete in various leagues on about 60 teams. Teams are grouped by age, starting with the Chipmunk division (4, 5 and 6 years old), Penguin (7. 8, 9), Beaver (10, 11, 12), Cadet (13, 15, 15) and Senior Cadet (16, 17, 18).

“It’s time-consuming but fun,” said Comtois, 50, who still plays in the C division. “The kids are the best. They’re learning to play the game.”

Before each season GLDH holds tryouts and a draft and tries to keep the teams balanced as possible.

“There are a lot of good players in this league,” said Bob Currie of Chelmsford, whose son, Bobby plays in the league. “The games are always close.”

Descouteaux said that the game was very popular through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, but as lacrosse and soccer grew, those sports drew players away from dek hockey.

“It’s coming back,” he said. “Some of these kids also play ice hockey, but we’re also getting the kids who play Little League [baseball] but are looking for something more active.”

Carl Marzolini, 15, of Tewksbury has been playing at Greater Lowell Dek Hockey since last spring. He also plays on Nashoba Tech’s ice hockey team.

“It’s a good thing to do in the off-season,” Marzolini said. “Some people take it very seriously. Some just play to have fun.”

Some players started playing pickup street hockey, but were looking for something a little more organized.

“I’ve played street hockey all my life,” said Richard Quinn, 15, of Lowell. “This is more fun. I meet a lot of new people.”

Some girls do play in the youth leagues, but the teams are mostly male.

At the adult level, there are A, B, and C leagues. The A league is the most competitive, while C is for the older or more recreational player. Players as old as 50 have played in the adult leagues.

“The A Division has the best players in the Merrimack Valley,” Descoteaux said.

Other dek or street hockey leagues in Eastern Massachusetts can be found in Hudson and Saugus. A facility is also opening in Dracut.

“The league is good, it’s well-run,” said Joe Huntress, 23, of Dracut, who plays on an A Division team. “We play all over. We play at Hockeytown USA in Saugus, which is indoors, but it’s a little better outside.”

Larry Sullivan, 42, of Nashua, N.H. has played for 15 years, starting at a facility in Dracut.

“It’s fun and it’s very competitive,” he said.