On a cold fall night, a few members of the Jefferson Recreation ice hockey team met with me at the library to discuss their interest in expanding with more kids and more age groups. As I walked in, I saw a trophy sitting on a table. Next to it was fifth-grader Hunter Parrillo with his father, Jason Parrillo, vice president of Jefferson Youth Hockey. The trophy, which reads “Squirt League Second Place,” proves that despite the decrease in numbers of players, these young boys and girls still pack a punch. Last season, the Falcons Squirt team finished 10-3-1.
Both the Squirt and Pee Wee teams placed second overall, led by their leading scorer, Hunter Parrillo. In the Squirt league, contact is minimal. Players may not hit others or purposely trip them with the stick. As the players get older, they move to Pee Wee. Tommy Dos Santos, an 11-year-old Pee Wee leaguer, told The Chronicle that his favorite part of the team is “talking with everyone; we have a lot of fun.”
There is one major problem with the age groups: not enough kids to field an entire Pee Wee team. Some of the more talented athletes are forced to join players two years older. Still, as Hunter Parrillo said, “playing hockey at our age is not what you see on TV. It is not that hard physically. It’s a lot of fun.” The team practices a few times a month and plays every weekend, either at Mennen Sports Arena in Morristown or at Skylands Ice World in Stockholm.
Jefferson hockey team members are not locked into heavy schedules or expensive equipment. Families of former players have plenty of leftover equipment and hand-me-downs for new players. The fee for joining the Jefferson hockey team is low, with discounts for in-town players. Out-of-town players are also welcome. The team accepts both boys and girls of all ages. Current members range from ages six to 14, separated into age groups.
The most important aspect of the hockey team is that the focus is not only on winning. As assistant coach and vice president Jason Parrillo told The Chronicle, kids at this age are “learning the game and fundamentals, but more importantly it is about making the kids into better sportsmen and having respect for the other athletes. Winning is just a bonus.”
If more players sign up, the Falcons hope to change that second place to a first place trophy. To join and get more information, visit www.jtfalconsicehockey.com.