PUBLISHED: 1:34 PM on Wednesday, December 7, 2005
Hard hitting
Juneau Douglas High students compete in school's first hockey game on Friday

Photos by Amanda Gragert
  Juneau Douglas High School students held a scrimmage against a Juneau adult team Saturday, Dec. 3 at Treadwell Arena in preparation for Friday's game against Tri-Valley.
The early morning practices and hard hits are just part of the game for the Juneau Douglas High School hockey team, which has its first game Friday, Dec. 9 at Treadwell Arena in Douglas.

After the opening of the ice rink in 2001 and youth club hockey shortly following, Tom Rutecki said he felt that a high school team was the next step. Rutecki, who has a son in the eighth grade but no children on the high school team, said he feels area youth should be allowed to play beyond the club league.

"It's just the next step. There aren't enough players for a competitive team, but there are enough for a high school team for the grades to come together to play," Rutecki said.

After getting approval from the school district, the hockey booster club has been struggling to earn funds to support the team.

Rutecki said the program would cost about $50,000 a year.

"For right now, we're only doing home games, and we pay the teams to come here to play," Rutecki said.

About 50 students tried out for the team of 23 and the they spend about 10 hours a week in practice.

Photos by Amanda Gragert
  Juneau Douglas High School students scrimmage against a Juneau adult team Saturday, Dec. 3 at Treadwell Arena. The team is seeking donations to help support the program.
Since the game schedule already was determined for 4A schools by the time the team was approved in the summer, JDHS will play 2A schools this season.

"I think it's good for all the kids because they get to meet people from other places, and they get to see other parts of the state," said Rutecki, who is assistant coach for the team.

"We try to make the practices fun, but they do work hard. I'm pretty proud of the kids."

To get ready for Friday's game, the JDHS team held a scrimmage against an adult team at 6:45 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3.

Not only was the team up for the challenge of both the scrimmage and the early time, but parents also filled the stands to watch and support the team.

Betty Svensson, mother of freshman Albert Svensson, said the first few weeks of practice were tough on the players, but now they are excited about their first game.

"It's a fantastic experience for them. You wonder where they're at in skill as compared to kids who have been on the ice their whole lives, but they're doing fine," Betty Svensson said.

"They're playing and we'll be out there doing the bake sales and soliciting donations to get the program off to a start."

Steve Foster coaches the team.

Tom Mayer, marketing director for the team, said he would like to see the community support the new team because it is important for the students.

"We think it's a great program," Mayer said.

"It keeps them off the street and gives them something better to do. The busier kids are, the better they'll do. They have to do well in other areas like school work to be able to play, so it's a privilege for them."