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For kids, hockey is focus

January 10, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

E.J. Hoy and John LaGrave had only been on ice once before they signed up for a youth hockey program in October at the Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex, but you'd never know it watching them fly around the rink.

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The twice-weekly program, called ICE - or Individuals Can Excel, combines hockey with after-school study and the program Character Counts.

LaGrave, who lives on Ridge Avenue in Hagerstown, said he enjoys watching hockey on television and has loved the experience.

"And we get our homework done," he said.

But the program is not all fun and games. The youngsters, who range in age from 8 to 13, must show improvement in school and stay out of trouble.

"If somebody gets in trouble at school, we apologize to the entire team," LaGrave said.

Hoy recalled having to sit out one session after he got into trouble at school.

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Skip Klauka, who started the program, said schools, police and other agencies refer "at-risk" children who have had discipline problems.

"We're trying to use hockey as a way to keep them focused," he said.

Some dropped out of the program early, but Klauka said the 21 who remained have responded well to ICE.

Klauka, the chief financial officer of Brook Lane Health Services, said his three sons play hockey. He got the idea of using the sport as a way to reach children struggling in school.

"I kind of thought hockey would be a great way to do it," he said.

Klauka got a grant from the Local Management Board to fund the program and held the first practices in October. AC&T, Brook Lane, Antietam Cable and other companies also have contributed to the effort.

The program, which costs about $25,000 a year, includes the ice time and equipment. Much of the gear has been donated, Klauka said.

The children have not yet played a game. They also do not yet have a team name.

But Klauka said he hopes to schedule games with other youth hockey teams next month.

Hoy said the program has allowed him to at least temporarily escape some of the violence on Jonathan Street, where he lives.

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