The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, March 18, 1997

Prep hockey would be
a fantasy on ice

I'VE often wondered what would happen if ice hockey suddenly became a varsity sport in all five of Hawaii's prep leagues.

Yep, you read that right: ice hockey.

Right. I know what you're thinking.

"Leave it to a mainland haole to dream up an idiotic idea like that."

Well, wait a minute.

Hawaii football legend Mosi Tatupu once told me that if he'd been born in Massachusetts, where he now lives, he'd have become a pro hockey player. No joke.

Just consider the possibilities here.

But first of all, let me go on the record as saying I know this will not happen until some time in the next millenium.

(I think that leaves it pretty wide open, don't you?)

Anyway, I think ice hockey would be embraced by Hawaii prep athletes.

Hawaii's sports culture is a hitting culture.

I mean, kids here can hit.

And hockey is a hitter's game -- at high speed.

So, all right, you have to know how to skate. No problem. Lots of local kids are learning to skate at the Ice Palace and they're learning to play hockey, too.

IF there were more rinks on Oahu and one on each of the neighbor islands, teams from the five leagues would find enough ice time for practice.

And what if -- and this is a wild "if" -- equipment like skates, sticks and pads were funded by the state? Whoa! I am really out of contact with planet earth now.

(This state can't even fund high school track and field.)

But let's feast our imaginations on visions of local athletes on ice:

Take Iolani's 6-foot-1, 300-pound defensive lineman Ed Taamu playing center ice.

Think of what being run into the boards by Big Ed would feel like.

And do you think anyone would high-stick the 1996 Star-Bulletin defensive player of the year?

I saw him power the third leg of a relay last weekend at the Iolani track and it's frightening to ponder what he could do on two steel blades over a frozen surface. Defenders would clear a path to the goal for him and the goalie would climb over the glass.

But suppose Kamehameha's all-state offensive lineman Steven Grace, the 1997 state heavyweight wrestling champ, was the last man back as Taamu broke for the net. Visualize a head-on diesel engine crash.

Imagine record-breaking Punahou wide receiver Tafiti Uso on a breakaway.

And, hey, I'd love to see St. Louis' Dominic Raiola or Punahou's Mike Souza wind up for a slap shot from the point. The velocity of the puck would be incredible.

OF course, in the nonstop hitting world of ice hockey, tempers flare often. And you wouldn't want to see some of these guys with pieces of lumber in their mitts when that happened. Referees and linesmen would have to be big enough to separate would-be combatants.

As for coaches, well I'd hire guys with hockey personalities -- guys who'd breathe fire from the bench: Farrington football coach Skippa Diaz, Kalaheo basketball coach Chico Furtado, and University of Hawaii assistant football coach Doug Semones.

Well, thank you for humoring me by reading this far.

As a supporter of things the local sports community really needs, I certainly won't pursue this notion.

But it's fascinating to consider what local boys could do with hockey. And it's an even better flight of fancy to imagine what they could do to reshape the nature of the National Hockey League.

If you were the owner of the Colorado Avalanche, what would you pay to sign an Ed Taamu who could skate like Wayne Gretzky, shoot like him and hit like . . . well . . . like Ed Taamu?

Probably enough to make Big Ed a rich young man.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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