In the state of Indiana, it’s hard for a sport to compete with basketball. But we found another version of Hoosier Hysteria, at least to this group of enthusiasts.
Tyler Tichenor is a senior on the team. “It’s kinda a combination of a bunch of sports and it’s something kinda special because it’s on ice,” says Tyler.
“Hockey is a hard sport to get into, especially around here, growing up in a basketball state like Indiana,” says Bloomington Blades team member Cole Whitehead. “So definitely around here, people get into it because of their dad or siblings playing.”
Gary Bland is the head coach. “The kids once they start playing it, they understand it, they love it. The core group of kids I coached through my sons age, we’ve had a lot of success in playing, winning some big tournaments and that’s helped keep the interest,” says Gary.
Their team may not make the newspaper, but that’s not how they came to know and love this sport.
Tyler says he became interested after finding a picture of his dad from when he played. Cole has been skating ever since he was 4 or 5 years old and starting playing hockey because of the inspiration of his brother.
Hockey is not a big enough sport to recognized by every school, so players on the Bloomington Blades play in the Hoosier League, 12 teams in a division as part of the Indiana State High School Hockey Association.
“We have the core players are from Bloomington, we have one from Bedford, one from Putnamville area, Martinsville and all from different schools” says Gary.
The Bloomington Blades practice and host their home games at the Frank Southern Center Ice Arena.
“We love our rink, but it’s at the point now there are so many users, there needs to be two sheets of ice. So we’re all stuggling for ice time.”
A testiment to a sport gaining popularity.
“I started playing in 1974 and I played my entire playing days here in Bloomington until I graduated in 1988 and I played a little bit in men’s league, I started coaching in ’98 when my son was 4 years old and I’ve been involved as a coach or assistant since then.”
Gary has a passion for the game and coaching that’s evident on the rink. “I coached most of them since they were 4 and 5 years old and just watching them grow up to be young men.”
A game that sharpens skills for outside the rink too.
“It teaches you discipline, it’s hard, you’re gonna have bad games where you have to come back and try again, teaches you perseverance,” says Tyler.
Tony Devito is another senior member of the team. “It’s fast, it’s intense and it’s definitely an adrenaline rush at times and I enjoy stepping up being a leader.”
A passion they too will carry and pass on. A dream Cole is hoping to continue.
“I’ve always dreamed of playing hockey my whole life but I’m trying to go to college somewhere and hopefully start playing somewhere.”