DECATUR -- Amid the battle scars and bruises is a softer, gentler side to the men who go down to the ice armed with bent sticks to play the game of hockey.
That tender sentiment was on full display Sunday evening, if only for a little while, as the Decatur Youth Hockey Association celebrated its Senior Night at the Ameren Illinois Arena inside the Decatur Civic Center.
Before the senior team took on the Morton Ice Hawks as their final season winds down, the six tough guys skated out bearing flowers as a salute for their moms. The players also had commemorative pucks to present to their dads as a way to mark their last hurrah before heading off to college and the rest of their lives.
“What will I most the most? I’ll miss the rest of the guys, for sure,” said goalie Will Horve, 18, a graduating senior at Maroa-Forsyth High School. “I’ll miss game nights, hotel stays, they were a lot of fun. I’ve been playing this since I was 4 and I enjoy the game because it’s just so different from any other sport.”
He will soon become a Decatur Youth Hockey League alumni and those alums turn out to be a very generous bunch of people. After the ceremony honoring parents came a check presentation to the American Cancer Society to the tune of more than $20,600, the proceeds of two annual alumni games, plus associated fundraising, held in November.
This is the third year of the fundraiser to help out the charity and it was the biggest check by far. “How important is this to us? This is huge, we have a great partnership with the hockey association,” said Lara Grobosky, Event Lead for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Macon County.
One new wrinkle on the ice not too many players seem to have noticed so far is that newly re-christened Ameren Illinois Arena they were presenting flowers and checks and skating on; the title change slid into place after the utility paid $27,000 for naming rights.
“I’m not real sure, but yes I did hear they were changing the name,” said Kim Taylor, President of the Decatur Youth Hockey Association. “Well, regardless of the name, it’s all about the kids and being able to come out and enjoy themselves and have a good time. As long as we have ice for our kids to play on, that is what’s important.”