Grand Strand Youth Hockey grows in popularity despite Myrtle Beach’s lack of ice

The Grand Strand Youth Hockey League has grown to over 100 kids in just a few years.
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 7:07 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - When you think of hockey, you probably don’t think of Myrtle Beach, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to play here.

While Grand Strand Youth Hockey League players don’t put on traditional hockey skates, or skate on ice, they still learn how to play and love the sport.

With a pair of rollerblades, an outdoor skate rink in Market Common, League Commissioner Chris Mowder leads kids ages 4-17 in practices and games throughout the week.

“We’re really excited to have gone from a group of a dozen kids of all ages to now we have about 100 kids in this program total,” said Mowder. “We’ve been really excited to watch it grow from just a few kids to two teams, then four teams, and now we’re up to having eight different teams.”

Mowder moved back to the area in 2019 and saw that the rink in Market Common was filled with pickup games, but no youth leagues.

“A few of us dads that were interested in having our kids play at the time just decided, hey we need to do something and get this back where it used to be,” said Mowder.

Plenty of parents sit or stand rink-side to watch their kids play, and even if the kids have never put on rollerblades before, they know that eventually their kids will be speeding past them.

“Coaches are great with them, they’re very patient,” said hockey parent, Charlie Soto. “They help them get through and within three or four weeks these kids look like they’ve been playing forever.”

One of the biggest things Coach Chris Mowder tries to emphasize in the league is community, and a lot of parents and kids really do feel that.

Shannon Vickery’s son, Abel, has played in the league the past few years and she said she’s never experienced a sports group like this one.

“It’s a great community of people, they’re all very kind and they just pull you in,” said Vickery. “The two years we’ve been here, we’ve been involved with sports from day one and the second that we stepped into this family they’ve just made you really feel at home and comfortable. It’s not just a sports group, it’s a family group.”

It’s not just the parents that realize the kind of relationships this group fosters, but a lot of the kids have found some of the greatest friends.

10-year old Abigail Macchio is one of them.

“I didn’t really have any friends when I first started school, and then when I first started hockey Bella helped me so it wasn’t so awkward skating and not knowing anybody,” said Macchio.

Isabella Negron is two years older than Abigail, but they’ve got the same passion for their friendship and the sport of hockey.

“It’s just when I step out here, I just think wow, I’m actually doing what I really like, and I love this, and I’m always so excited to see my friends,” said Negron.

Registration for the fall session of the Grand Strand Youth Hockey League is open until midnight on Sept. 16. You can register on their website.