Blount Press Row

The Hockey Player

BPR photo editor follows her son, Erik Jan, through a season of KAHA

_84A3927Stars defenseman Erik Jan Hill moves up ice during a Knoxville Amateur Hockey Association game. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

Editor’s note: There are many games and sporting events we can’t get to yet, but Blount Press Row still wants to share your stories. The Little League parent with a gift for prose can tell the story just as well as anyone. If you’ve attended a sporting event Blount County ought to know about, send it to us at: stefancooper60@gmail.com. To get the ball rolling, BPR photo editor Jolanda Jansma chronicles a season following her son, Erik Jan, in youth hockey.

By Jolanda Jansma
Blount Press Row Photo Editor

For a handful of Blount County kids, the sport of choice of is hockey.

Hill's Stars team enter today league tournament at Cool Sports in Farragut the No. 2 seed.

Hill’s Stars team enters today’s league tournament in Farragut the No. 2 seed.

Ice hockey, that is.

Several times a week they strap on boots with blades no wider then 1.5mm underneath. They don protective gear and a helmet that can withstand being hit in the head with a puck traveling anywhere up to 50-70 miles per hour. The surface they play on is slick, fast and cold.

Ice hockey is their way of life. For mom and dad, it means a rather long commute to the Cool Sports Icearium in Farragut, one we gladly make.

We, my son, Erik Jan Hill, and I, used to spend our summers in the Netherlands. The past six years or so have seen such a rise in airfare costs we have had to put off going. I did not want Erik Jan to sit at home all summer, so I told him to pick two summer camps, any two. His first choice was soccer at Maryville College, which he did for two years. His second choice was hockey.

The two of us were already hockey lovers and attend all Knoxville Ice Bears games. (If you haven’t been yet, I highly recommend it.) Also, Erik Jan has Dutch blood. At the recently concluded Winter Olympics in Sochi, the Dutch received all 24 of their medals in skating. Being my son, skating had to be in his blood. Next came learning to play hockey.

A young goalie works on his game.

A young goalie works on his game.

Erik Jan started in the Knoxville Amateur Hockey Association program they call Cross-Ice. Kids as young as 4 learn the basics of skating and hockey at that level. The following years are spent in the other house leagues — the Mites, Squirts, and Pee Wee/Bantam. Travel and high school teams also play at Cool Sports and at other facilities throughout the South.

We are not (yet) into the traveling thing, but who knows? For now, Erik Jan is happy skating for the Stars.

With the season closing, it is time for the tournament. The Stars are coming into the tournament in second place. They face the No. 3 Capitals on Saturday at 3. The No. 1 Blackhawks play the No. 4 Rangers at 2.

The championship game is Tuesday.

Asked what he likes about hockey, Erik Jan answers much the way any 13-year-old playing any youth sport would: “I don’t know.”

Is it the speed?

“I don’t know.”

The teamwork?

“I don’t know.”

Well, we know he doesn’t mind the contact. It’s his job, he says, even (gasp!) when there’s a girl involved.

Girls play alongside the boys in KAHA. At a recent game, Erik Jan, a defenseman, collided with a girl playing for the other team. This was no time for chivalry. There was nothing intentional about it.

“She’s not on my team,” he said. “I’m trying to get the puck. I don’t have time to be friendly.”

My son, the hockey player.

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