by Lorie Lewis Ham
Hockey is my favorite sport and we have been to several Fresno Monsters Hockey Games. When I found out that there was a Fresno Jr. Monsters Hockey Team, and a Fresno Junior Hockey Club, I thought it would be fun to learn more about them.
According to their website, Fresno Junior Hockey Club, (FJHC), is a non-profit organization formed over thirty years ago in the interest of providing youth of the community with the opportunity to play competitive ice hockey. Their players come from all over the Central Valley, the Central Coast and the Bay Area. They compete in the NorCal division of USA Hockey; the official amateur hockey association of the U.S.A., which includes all levels from beginners to the U.S. Olympic team. Gateway Ice Center is the home rink to the FJHC, and all of their home games are played there. The FJHC is governed by an elected board of volunteer directors who have enlisted certified, trained coaches from among the ranks of former Fresno Falcons, college and NHL players. Their goal is to help players progress as far as their level of dedication will allow.
New players begin with the Learn-To-Play program to develop fundamental skating, stick handling, passing and shooting skills. Once players have achieved a minimum level of abilities, they can move into their In-House program, which includes weekly practices and games. Dedicated players who seek a higher level of competition can then move into our Travel program, which allows players to compete in regular season games throughout northern California. Teams that finish among the top 2 in each A and B division of NorCal, from the Squirts, age 10 and under, through Midgets, age 16-18, are then eligible to compete in the California Amateur Hockey Associations (CAHA) State Championships. They have also competed at the Midget age group in the South West Youth Hockey League, which competed in tournaments throughout the western United States.
We had the chance to interview the coach of the Fresno Jr. Monsters 16 and Under Midget team, Mark Haupt.
KRL: When did you first become involved with them, how & why?
Mark: I got involved with the FJHC as a founder of the Fresno Monsters in 2009.
KRL: What is your background in hockey?
Mark: I began playing hockey in the FJHC when it was formed in 1976. I played 10 years for the then Jr. Falcons before starting my pro career. I played five years with the Fresno Falcons and then played one year for ESPN’s Pro Beach Hockey in the summer of 1995.
KRL: What ages are on the team?
Mark: The team I coach range in age from 14 to 16.
KRL: How many kids are on the team?
Mark: I have 14 players on my team.
KRL: Are they all from Fresno?
Mark: I have 13 kids from the Fresno / Clovis area and 1 from Fowler.
KRL: Where do you practice and how often?
Mark: Our practices and games are played at Gateway Ice Center in Fresno. We practice every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30.p.m.
KRL: How many games do you play in a season?
Mark: We play anywhere from an 18 to 22 game season which include preseason and tournament games.
KRL: Where do you play?
Mark: We play teams from Roseville, Oakland, Santa Clara, and Vacaville. This season we will also take our team to a Presidents Day weekend tournament in Colorado Springs Colorado in February. While we are there we plan to take our team to see the USA Hockey headquarters, we also want to take them to a couple of the Division 1 Colleges there so they can see the campuses and maybe tour the hockey programs as well.
KRL: Do you have to do fundraisers to pay for the team, or do you have sponsors?
Mark: We are always looking for sponsors and doing fundraisers to help offset cost for the parents. This year my main focus is to raise enough money to help pay for our trip to Colorado. Every little bit helps our young men.
KRL: Why do you feel a team like this is important?
Mark: Youth hockey is very important. Having teams like mine as well as the other teams within the FJHC ensures that hockey will be here in the Central Valley for many years to come. I encourage kids of all ages to come out to Gateway Ice center and try hockey for themselves. Gateway offers a Learn to Skate every Monday at 6:10 p.m.
KRL: Is there a cost to the kids for being on the team?
Mark: Yes there is a cost to the parents for their kids to play. It will cover all of the practice ice, game ice, and cost for the referee’s.
KRL: Do they have to try out?
Mark: There are no try outs for the house league teams but there are try outs for the travel teams like mine.
KRL: You mentioned that some of these kids would probably move on to play for the Fresno Monsters–how does that work? Do you have some you already know will?
Mark: My job is to develop these young men and give them the skills to move on and play at the higher levels. Try outs for the Monsters would be an option for 3 or 4 of the players on my team either next year or the year after.
KRL: Where can people find the game schedule for the team?
Mark: This is the link to our schedule http://www.norcalyouthhockey.com/Sched/FR16A-Team.html
KRL: Does the team need any volunteer help in any area?
Mark: We do not need any volunteer help but we would appreciate any donations to help raise money for our trip to Colorado. The FJHC is a 501c3 Non Profit club.
KRL: Anything else you would like to add?
Mark: I just want to encourage people to come out and support these great kids and if they can’t make it out to the games to please make a donation to help send these kids to Colorado.
KRL: When does the season begin?
KRL: We begin our regular season games on November 17 at home against Vacaville at 10 a.m. So far the team looks very promising as we finished the pre season with a 4-3-1 record and 3 of those games were against older 18 and under teams.
KRL: Is there a website where people can learn more?
Mark: The club website is: www.fjhc.org
KRL: Do you sell tickets for people to come out and watch?
Mark: No we do not sell tickets for people to come watch. All of our games are FREE. Also anyone who is interested in donating to or sponsoring our trip to Colorado can contact me via email at stagedaddy@aol[dot]com
If your child is interested in this program you can contact Mark, check out their website, or you can also contact Bryce Dale or Jeff Blair at Gateway Ice Center for more information. Gateway’s phone number is 277-2233.
Why not head out to a game, or donate to this team, and help keep hockey alive and thriving in Fresno for our young people!