Like many of the regulars who make up the LaGrange Indoor Hockey League, Joseph Shaw didn’t know much about the sport when he first started.
He knew what a hockey stick was, and he knew the puck was supposed to go in the net, and that was about it.
“I never played, I never tried,” Shaw said. “That’s one thing about the south, it’s not really popular.”
Once Shaw gave the sport a try, he was hooked.
“I came out here and tried it. I loved it,” Shaw said.
Shaw recruited some family members and friends to come out as well, and now they’re part of the regular group of 20 or so that comes out twice a week to participate.
Some of the players have been around hockey their entire lives, including a trio of men who grew up in Massachusetts.
It’s mostly men, but there are also some women who play in the league, including Kelly McCrary, a student at Auburn who makes the trip to LaGrange to play in the league.
Glenn Cunningham, a Massachusetts native and the founder of the league, said the only thing a lot of the newcomers know “about hockey is the fighting. Yeah, everybody knows that part.”
While there are plenty of novices, there are some players like Cunningham who grew up playing the sport and watching it.
“There’s three of us from Massachusetts, and we’re all within 30 miles of each other,” Cunningham said.
One of those players who hails from Massachusetts is Mike Barton of the LaGrange police department.
“I’m originally from Boston, so I have a little background,” Barton said. “Every Christmas, I’d get a set of hockey skates.”
Barton came to Georgia while he was in the military, and he served at Fort Benning.
“The military brought me down here, so I was stationed at Fort Benning,” Barton said. “The Cottonmouths had just started up. I was calling the penalties before the refs were, and the people were al l looking at me like, how do you know?”
Barton was part of a hockey league before that didn’t last.
“I actually used to play with a group of guys several years ago. We had a rec team, and Glenn played with us a couple of games, and it kind of fizzled,” Barton said.
Now, Barton is getting another chance to play the sport he grew up with.
“Glenn got this going again, and he contacted someone at the police department to get in touch with me, and I started playing probably in October,” Barton said.
While most of the players run around the rink in sneakers, Barton wears skates.
“I need this to keep up with these young guys,” he said with a grin.
On the other end of the spectrum is Preston Channell, a standout wrestler for the Troup Tigers.
Channell came out to give the sport a whirl, and he has enjoyed it.
“I’d never done it before,” Channell said. “It’s been fun.”
Channell isn’t just one of the players, either.
He was asked to be a goal keeper, and he’s done that his past few times out.
The first time wearing the goalie pads, Channell said “it was hard to stop (the pucks) really. You’ll looking at so much wondering where it’s going to go. If there are people in front of you, you can’t see it.”
Channell has settled into the role, though, and Cunningham said he’s an ideal fit at goal keeper.
“Whoever plays in that spot has to be able to focus,” Cunningham said. “If he starts drifting, the puck’s moving too fast, and the next thing you know you’re scoring on him. It tends to be a leadership position. Preston started showing that, and he’s perfect for the sport.”
Barton said anyone, first-timer or life-long veteran of the sport, is welcome.
“We’re trying to get the word out, trying to get people out here and get this going,” he said.