Olympics Watch: For Hawaii ice hockey player, goal is having fun

Hockey featureThe weekday public skating hours at Ice Palace Hawaii typically end at 3 p.m., but the action on the ice is far from over. In the evening, skaters from all walks of life begin trickling in to Hawaii’s only ice rink toting bulky duffel bags. Within minutes masked and padded skaters take to the ice with all eyes on a single puck. Yes, there is ice hockey in Hawaii.

Local comedian Jose Figueras (aka “Jose Dynamite”) joined Ice Palace’s hockey program in 2000. Having previously played roller hockey in his hometown of St. Louis, Miss., he was urged to give ice hockey a try by one of his college professors. It almost sounds like something he could fit into his comedy routine – he moved to Hawaii and discovered ice hockey.

Fourteen years later, Figueras continues to play as a left wing for the Psychlones in the Ice Palace B League. “It sounds like a girls’ soccer team, but I don’t care,” he quipped. And he shouldn’t. His co-ed team proudly defends the league championship.

Ice hockey is Figueras’ major physical activity. He says it’s got some great health benefits. It gives him a cardio workout, and builds his leg and upper body strength.

But he doesn’t just play for the exercise.

“I think it’s always mentally beneficial to be doing a team sport,” he said. “It’s a social activity and everyone on your team is trying to achieve a common goal of winning. Ultimately, everyone on the ice here is having fun and I think anytime you’re out doing something where you have fun serves as a benefit for you, health-wise.”

Hockey feature 2So how does ice hockey in Hawaii differ from playing on the mainland? Figueras says it comes down to the ice itself. Due to Hawaii’s warm climate, the ice tends to be softer, which leads to slower play. The upside? After training with this added resistance, he and his fellow league-mates tend to have a strength advantage when playing games outside the islands. Think of how much faster you would run on a normal track after training in the sand.

Interested in suiting up for a game? Here are some of the costs to consider:

• Equipment, including skates, elbow pads, shoulder pads, gloves, socks, pants, hockey stick, helmet, protective cup

• Ice time and league fees

• Travel expenses for tournaments and competitions

You can expect to replace your skates, gloves and sticks the most often due to the high-impact nature of the game.

When discussing his hockey goals (no pun intended), Figueras says, “I just want to keep playing until I can’t walk anymore. I don’t go to the gym, I don’t surf, I don’t ride a bicycle much. This is my exercise.”

As one might guess, the Winter Olympics is one of Figueras’ favorite televised sporting events. He’s a big supporter of both men’s and women’s hockey and even admits to being a fan of figure skating. One Olympian he’ll be keeping an eye on in this year’s games is Paul Stastny from the U.S. hockey team. Stastny attended the same high school as Figueras.

Various sports are sometimes in jeopardy of being excluded from the Olympics games. What has kept hockey from becoming the Greco-Roman wrestling of winter sports? Figueras says it’s the pre-existing rivalries from the National Hockey League that keep it interesting. In representing their home countries, NHL players who may otherwise be considered rivals in their normal season are now teammates.

Of course, ice hockey is always more entertaining to watch live and lucky for us, admission to watch games at Ice Palace Hawaii is free. Go Psychlones!

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