Kids and adults take to the ice

Published 3:37 pm Sunday, January 18, 2009

Every Saturday morning, Jeff Cheeseman, Pelham’s director of Hockey, meets with his hockey family.

This clan consists of 225 participants in recreational and travel hockey who call the ice at Pelham Civic Complex their home court. In fact, Pelham’s ice skating rink is so unique to the area that it also serves as the home court for the University of Alabama’s hockey team, the Frozen Tide, currently playing their third full season.

In addition to serving as Pelham’s Youth Hockey director, Jeff Cheeseman also works with former Birmingham Bulls Hockey player, Ian Hebert, to coach the Frozen Tide. The University’s hockey team plays in the Southeastern Conference of the American College Hockey Association in Division 3 play. Out of 30 teams in the league, only 10 go to the playoffs. Last year, the Frozen Tide made their playoff debut and are currently ranked ninth in the league.

Jeff had a tremendous career as a hockey player before an injury led to his transition from professional hockey player to devoted hockey coach. In Pelham, Jeff’s extended hockey family has some rather strange names. Mites, squirts, peewees and midgets sound like the teasing names older siblings would call their younger siblings; however, in hockey leagues in American and Canada, these are actual league names for the various age divisions of hockey.

The Pee Wee Travel Team, consisting of 11–and–12–year–olds, recently won the Silver Stick Invitational tournament in Huntsville. This victory allowed them to represent the Southeastern district in Canada. This same group won the Squirt division in the Silver Stick Invitational three years ago.

Listening to Cheeseman’s delight over the antics of the kids in the Pelham Youth Hockey league reveals the passion he has for both the sport and the young athletes.

“We have eight girls in the league. One girl plays in the 7– to 8–year–old Mite division. She has pink hockey gloves and pink laces in her skates. She just scored her first goal. And we also have a set of 8–year–old triplet boys who are a treat to watch.”

Jeff is also proud of his immediate family that includes Alabama native Valerie Kernan Cheeseman and the couple’s newest addition, a 4–month–old son.

“I think that I’m down here for good now,” Jeff told me. “My Canadian family is used to my being away since I left home at 16 to play hockey, and my new family — they want me right here.”