Throughout much of the week and into the weekend the Capital Clubhouse Ice Rink in Waldorf is busy with the sights and sounds of players and coaches who are part of the Southern Maryland Sabres Hockey organization, with practices occasionally starting in the early morning hours.
Last Monday, Jan. 4, players and coaches from the various Southern Maryland Sabres hockey teams convened at the Capital Clubhouse for the start of their practices and scrimmages following their usually scheduled holiday break. In all, the Southern Maryland Sabres hockey organization includes 14 teams and a sum of roughly 250 players who have maintained their passion for playing throughout the pandemic.
When the current group of Sabres hockey teams returned to the rink last summer, they faced a tough choice amid the pandemic — plays games or practice. Teams that remained at the rink to practice, 11 of them, would not be permitted to play games. Teams that traveled to compete would not be allowed to practice at the rink.
Southern Maryland Sabres coach Scott Kelly noted the teams quickly adapted to the conditions at hand. With so few rinks nearby open for actual games or tournaments, Kelly has spent much of his time at the Capital Clubhouse guiding his son’s team through practices.
“Everyone has had to make adjustments to the schedules at some point this year,” Kelly said. “But teams knew right from the start they would either have to choose between playing games elsewhere or coming here for practices. Most of the younger kids need to spend more time practicing. But the intra-squad games help give the kids something to look forward to.”
Sabres coach Mark Prorock has enjoyed being part of the organization and looks forward to seeing his kids play and practice at the rink. A member of the Air National Guard at Joint Base Andrews, Prorock is in his third year with the Sabres as a coach and parent, and commended the group for making such a quick adjustment to the circumstances.
“It seems like every place has different rules,” said Prorock, who has two sons playing in the organization: Luke , 10, and Asher, 6. “But as long as you know the rules in advance you can adjust. My oldest son, Luke, plays on one of the teams that travels, so I usually don’t have the chance to see him play. But my youngest son, Asher, is really enjoying playing hockey. It’s been a great experience for all the kids involved in the organization.”
Southern Maryland Sabres first-year coach Blaine Koeniger, a St. Mary’s County native whose son, Landon Koeniger, 6, plays for the 8U cross ice team, has enjoyed watching his son interact with the other youngsters in the organization. A Leonardtown High School graduate who lives in Hollywood, Koeniger is among those adapting quickly to the schedule.
“We’ve really enjoyed being part of the organization,” Koeniger said. “When we started I told Landon if he wasn’t having fun playing right away to let me know. But he loves it. It’s been a great experience for him and the other kids on our cross ice team. They enjoy being able to interact with each other a couple of nights a week and compete against one another in the intra-squad scrimmages.”
Six of the Sabres teams are in the 8-and-under group, three others are 10U, three more are 12U and there is one 14U and one 16U team. Both the 10U and 12U squads are divided into Gold, Red and Black levels, while the 14U and 16U teams are both labeled as Gold squads.
Six high school teams with Southern Maryland ties are still awaiting the chance to compete in the Maryland Student Hockey League this winter. Central Maryland, Charles County, Chesapeake, Huntingtown, Northern and Leonardtown are all awaiting word from Charles County, hopefully as soon as this week, to be cleared to play games at the Capital Clubhouse.