When people think about hockey, the first thing that often comes to mind is ice, snow and the cold — all traits of Northern cities. Most would not consider weather and Southerners.
“The south should definitely have hockey, it’s just a great thing to have,” said former hockey player Austin Treubert.
Treubert started playing hockey at the age of 5 and stopped playing his senior year of high school. He grew up in Freehold, New Jersey so he was introduced to many opportunities in hockey. Around the age of 10, Treubert played against a team from North Carolina. This is when he realized there were teams in the South.
Current hockey players, Matteo and Luca Salvatore, found it difficult to play hockey after moving from Canada to South Carolina. “Hockey was the only sport in Canada, it was the only thing to do,” Matteo Salvatore said.
The set of twins started playing hockey at the young age of 3 and still continue with their careers today. “Hockey is now in a different environment for us and it was hard to adapt,” Matteo Salvatore said. “Traveling really impacted me, there should really be more places down here.”
Since hockey has started to open up more, Matteo and Luca don’t have to travel as much. Both boys would travel every weekend and miss parts of the week for hockey, “Traveling took a toll on me, having to fly then play five games a day was hard,” Luca Salvatore said.
Sophomore David Eberly from Atlanta, who plays for the UGA Ice Dawgs, faced struggles when traveling, “I can’t explain the amount of things I missed out on due to traveling for hockey.”
Due to his travels up north, Eberly only got one weekend off, if he was lucky. Having to travel almost every weekend can impact anyone. As more states like South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia started to have more teams, this lessened travel.
“We have lots of opportunities (in the South) now,” he said.
Danny Bryant, the arena general manager for the Classic Center, was very open to the idea of more southern hockey teams. Bryant said that Athens, Georgia will be announcing the arrival of their new ECHL team. This new arena will help attract more people for hockey.
Over the past seven years, the UGA Ice Dawgs — who will play home games in the new arena — have won conference championships and have proved themselves as a competitive team. “People love the Dawgs — we always have a big crowd,” said Bryant. “Even the students love it.”
The rise of hockey in the South has done more than add another sport for people to play and watch. It also has created a community. “I just love being in the environment it gave me and the community it created,” said Matteo Salvatore.
Matteo Salvatore has been on multiple teams at one time with so many different players. Some of them are from the North that have decided or have been recruited to play down South. Players coming from the North to the South is not uncommon. The current UGA Ice Dogs roster features 14 players from northern states, including New York, Maryland, Wisconsin and Colorado.
Regardless of where they came from, all of the players on the team have developed a strong bond and have even taught others some other skills that they know. “It was fun learning new things that other guys had learned from up north, they definitely brought some newer things” Eberly said.
Luca Salavote, a goalie for his team, said that it was important to him when he got to show some of his skills to other players that didn’t have them. Due to the lack of camps and training facilities in the South, many native Southern hockey players missed out on opportunities to improve their game. Eberly noted that kids from New York or Maryland have a slight advantage from the other players.
Whether from the North or South, Austin said hockey players share a common bond — their passion for the sport and their desire to share their love for it.
“Hockey is more than just a sport, it lets people come together and be one big family,” Austin said. “It’s a community of people that love each other, I think every kid should have that.”