4 in 1500

Junior Anthony Hummel, on right, squares off against an opponent during a Midwest High School Hockey League game in 2013. Hummel is one of the four student hockey players the Free Press found.

photo courtesy of: Anthony Hummell

Junior Anthony Hummel, on right, squares off against an opponent during a Midwest High School Hockey League game in 2013. Hummel is one of the four student hockey players the Free Press found.

Out of the approximately 1,558 Free State students, the Free Press found only four who play hockey.

According to The United States of Hockey website, Kansas had only 314 players registered with USA Hockey during the 1990-91 season. In 2010-11, that number was up 404.3 percent to 1,934 players. In comparison, Minnesota’s registered player count for the 2010-11 season was 54,325.

“I know that Kansas is a big football and basketball state, and so it’s kinda hard not being the center of attention for a sports team,” said junior Anthony Hummell, hockey player. “If I was in Minnesota, everyone would be talking about hockey … it’s always hockey instead of football or basketball.”

Because ice rinks are not as common in the Midwest as basketball courts and football fields, hockey players often must travel an hour or two to get to practice.

Junior Trent Reinardy travels to Kansas City twice a week and St. Louis twice a month for hour or hour-and-a-half long practices.

Others’ practice schedules require even more travel time. Junior Travis Treanor practices for three hours in north Kansas City three times week and senior Matt Main goes to Shawnee four times a week for two hour practices.

Games require even further travel. Because not many hockey teams are based in Kansas, local teams often travel to Iowa, Chicago, Minnesota and St. Louis just to play a game. “State” takes place every year in Ames, Iowa, and teams from Kansas and the rest of the Midwest High School Hockey League participate.

“We have a charter bus,” Hummell said. “…We travel basically every weekend.”

Three Free State hockey players started skating at around three or four years old, and then joined teams during their early elementary years.

“I was born in Canada, and I had an outdoor rink down the street from me so that was definitely a big factor in [why I started playing hockey early],” Main said.

While most began young, the hockey players’ reasons for picking up their stick vary greatly. Reinardy started playing because his dad grew up in Minnesota and wanted him to follow in his footsteps. Treanor, on the other hand, discovered his passion after watching a hockey-centered cartoon.

“I started watching the Anaheim Ducks animated cartoon series, and I was like, ‘I’m gonna do that,’” Treanor said.

Hummell, who didn’t start playing until his eighth grade year, was inspired to begin by fellow hockey player, Treanor.

“Travis [Treanor] actually got me started in hockey,” Hummell said. “… He used to have a barn, and we’d always play roller hockey, and it sparked my interest to start playing ice hockey.”

Even though hockey is not as popular as other sports in the Midwest, Treanor believes the effort and passion required to participate are similar to that of any other sport.

“It’s the most beautiful game in the world,” Treanor said. “… It’s just like any other sport … You practice; you get good at it.”

High school hockey’s rules and regulations are nearly identical to those of the National Hockey League (NHL), but with steeper penalties for fighting and shorter periods of play.

“We aren’t allowed to fight, which is unfortunate,” Treanor said. “I mean, like you can, but you get suspended … We get suspended for five games if we fight. [NHL players] get five minutes.”

While fighting is technically prohibited, the players all agree it permeates the game. Fights are common, and a couple players said they had participated.

“I think it was the third period with like a couple minutes left, and there was this kid who was chirpin’ me all game, and I was just like, ‘Alright. Whatever. I’ll settle it,’” Main said. “… and that’s how I got a 30 day suspension.”

Trash-talking, referred to by hockey players as “chirping,” is also rampant.

“If you’re insulting someone, you’re ‘chirping,’” Hummell said. “There’s a lot of chirping in the hockey community. It’s hard to go a game without getting called something. I mean, I even chirp. Everyone chirps.”

In addition to fights and “chirping,” the game is extremely physical in general. In order to protect themselves, players wear shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves, shin guards, a helmet and “breezers,” protective pads that protect the lower-half of the torso.

Not only do the four play a unique sport, but they also have individualized ways of preparing for upcoming games. Some, like Main, eat an apple right before regulation. Others, like Treanor, take a shot of honey.

“The semi-pro player that a teammate of mine lived with would take shots of honey before the game, and he was the best player on the team, so now we always do it,” Treanor said.

While they are are not on the same team, each expressed a desire to continue playing after high school.

“I mean, I’m always going to play hockey,” Treanor said. “I’m gonna play hockey ‘til I die.”