Houston and Smithers Christian Hockey Leagues gather for a group photo after a scrimmage game.

Houston and Smithers Christian Hockey Leagues gather for a group photo after a scrimmage game.

Hockey League focuses on fun and helping

A less structured program, the Houston Christian Hockey League is geared towards fun, family and teaching kids to help each other out.

A less structured hockey program, the league is geared towards fun, family and teaching kids to help each other out.

That was the desire of James and Melisa Makowichuk when they started Houston Christian Hockey six years ago.

Open for all kids ages five to 14, the program runs Fridays after school and includes hockey drills, lots of scrimmage time, and a short Christian devotional.

Once in a while they hit the ice for a game against the Smithers Christian league.

James says when they first started the league, they weren’t sure if it would work to have kids from such a wide range of ages on the ice at the same time.

But he’s been amazed at how it has worked, and how, with a little encouragement, the kids help each other out.

“Everyone is on the ice at once… and the older kids encourage the little ones,” James said.

When kids get knocked over, they give each other a hand up, even with rival kids in the midst of a game against the Smithers team.

Instead of focusing on driving athletes forward in their skills, James says it’s about having fun.

For him, the focus flows out of his personal experience.

“I grew up in Houston, and I loved hockey,” he said, adding that he left home at age 15 to pursue a hockey career.

But “it wasn’t good,” he said. “I was too young to leave home.”

Hockey consumed so much of his life and he doesn’t want that for his kids, he said.

That’s partly why this program demands much less time.

Kids play Christian Hockey once a week plus a few games throughout the year and there’s no pressure for kids to make games or be at the program every week, Melisa said.

They want to give kids a chance to play hockey without families having to be overwhelmed by a huge commitment.

James agreed.

“Our program is for families who do other things as well,” he said.

The program was started by James and Melisa with help from Richard King, Andrew and Kim Lavigne and volunteer coaches Trevor Vandermooren, Devin Haftner, Mark Smaill, Ryan McEwen and Jamie-Lee McEwen.

“They’ve given a lot of time and dedication to our hockey program,” James said.

The program started up in October and will wrap up come March.

With support from the community, Christian Hockey has been able to keep costs low, which Melisa says they are very grateful for.

It gives more kids a chance to play, James said.

“There’s a lot of kids in our league who would never experience a hockey atmosphere – a hockey team, playing in games, enjoying the ice.

“Now they can.”

For the future, James hopes to get more ice time so more kids can come out and play.

He wants to share his passion and love of hockey with kids and give them a chance to enjoy the sport in a fun and friendly way.