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Sophomore bears the cold in East Bay ice hockey league

Sophomore Hayden Stocker has made weekday trips to Oakland for years—trips that are made out of love for a sport, a passion that he has built upon since he was seven years old.

Because hockey is not widely popular in a place like Marin, Stocker’s dedication to the sport is quite rare.

From the moment he first learned how to ice skate, Stocker was captivated by hockey.

“I became interested in hockey when I went to the Santa Rosa Snoopy’s Home ice rink. After we went skating, a hockey tournament was [being televised], and my dad and I sat down and watched it,” he said.

Stocker’s fascination with the sport has not diminished since he first began playing at a young age. He now plays goalie for the Oakland Bears of the California Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA), a league for AA hockey teams, which is one step below the highest level of youth competition, tier one, and one step above AAA hockey.

Stocker is the only Bears player from Marin, as his teammates live throughout the Bay Area.

Keeping an eye on the puck, sophomore Hayden Stocker defends the goal in a game for the Oakland Bears, Stocker’s AA CAHA hockey team.
Keeping an eye on the puck, sophomore Hayden Stocker defends the goal in a game for the Oakland Bears, Stocker’s AA CAHA hockey team.

“It’s really unique in Marin because it’s not a popular sport, but it’s definitely growing, so the community is getting stronger,” Stocker said. “Once people start exploring hockey, the community will get larger.”

After developing the fundamental hockey skills, Stocker became interested in one of the most essential aspects of the game: goaltending.

“I played one game as a regular player, but I never found the interest or the fun as a player,” Stocker said. “My interest turned towards goaltending.”

Stocker emphasized the importance of the mental aspect of playing goalie.

“Being a goalie is about 70 percent mental and 30 percent physical,” he said.

He also said that maintaining confidence is vital to being successful as a goaltender.

“If you aren’t confident you’re not going to play well,” Stocker said. “That’s the thing with goaltending—you have to really be ready for what’s to come and for the next shot.”

Stocker also said that fatigue can affect a goalie over the course of a game.

“Goalies are on the ice the entire game, so it can get really tiring or really frustrating if your players don’t play the way you want them to,” he said.

On most weekends during the season, Stocker plays in tournaments in Los Angeles, competing with teams from both northern and southern California.

He said that the traveling required for the sport can be difficult, but it doesn’t stop him from pursuing his passion.

“I usually have to do my homework in the car, which can be frustrating, but I do it for the sport because I love to play,” Stocker said.

The Oakland Bears finished their winter season 8-7-3 with a tournament win in Chicago.

Stocker views the Bears’ season as a success, as it was their first season in the AA league.

“We finished in the top ten, which is really good for our team because it is our first season in AA. We ended up beating a lot of other teams that had been in AA for a long time,” he said. “Other teams now recognize us as a force to reckon with.”

Stocker’s regular season with the Oakland Bears has since ended, but he plans to continue playing hockey. He will begin the spring season with the Bay Area Blazers, a AAA hockey team, and in the upcoming months he will participate in hockey camps, including some in Canada.

Despite playing in an area where hockey is not a popular sport, Stocker still hopes to follow his interests to the point of playing hockey in college.

“That’s one of the biggest things I’m looking for in a school,” he said.

 

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About the Contributor
Jason Fieber, Author