The moment they first step onto the playing surface, any casual observer can tell there’s something special about them. Sophomores Percilla Mayer and Jake Powell along with freshman Luke Killeen have played starring roles in helping shape a winning season for Eastlake High School’s roller hockey team.
But roller hockey is not their forte. Ice hockey is.
“I call them my ice line,” Eastlake High School roller hockey coach Ron Cole quipped.
It is an appropriate designation for the trio. All of them began playing ice hockey long before they put on inline skates.
“We have a nice chemistry,” Mayer said. “We kind of know where each of us is going to be on the rink.”
For the uninitiated, Mayer is the younger sister of former EHS scoring wizard Aaron Mayer, who set a CIF-Metro Conference scoring record with 177 points during the 2014-15 season. Aaron is now playing ice hockey at San Diego State University and is one of the Aztecs’ top freshmen players. He had a big influence in getting Percilla involved in the sport.
“My older brother played ice hockey and I used to go to his games to watch,” she said. “I got interested and asked my dad if I could get involved. I was 5.”
It’s hard for any youngster watching the speed and physical nature of the sport not to get excited about playing ice hockey. But Southern California is known more for its beaches and sunshine than sledding.
However, a growing sub-culture thrives here. Mayer said she first learned to skate when she was 2 when her father, who grew up playing ice hockey in Minnesota, took her along for lessons at the Kroc Center ice rink in Rolando.
The Kroc Center facility, which offers public ice skating, hockey leagues and classes, is the nearest ice rink to the Eastlake community.
Mayer, Powell and Killeen are currently playing for the San Diego Union Hawks junior varsity ice hockey team in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League. Games are played at San Diego County ice rinks as well as in Orange County.
“It’s a new experience,” Mayer said. “Many of the guys are older and more experienced. We have to work on our skills a lot. The mental aspect is a lot faster.”
Their ice hockey skills have made them instant standouts on the school’s roller hockey team. It’s the hockey mind-set of tactics and positioning that particularly appeals to Mayer, who takes prides in her technical proficiency as a defender.
“In ice hockey … you try to see things before they happen,” she said. “But playing roller hockey also improves my skills for ice. I’m able to work on things while not in practice.”
Playing roller hockey for Eastlake High means there really isn’t any dead time between practices — ice or roller hockey.
“It’s fun,” Mayer said. “We kind of grew up together and we have inside jokes and mess around with each other, kind of like family.”
“It’s pretty cool, we get to talk a lot about hockey,” Killeen said.
Powell, whose father grew up in northern Ohio, started playing ice hockey at 5. “I was learning how to skate, but really only moving the puck up the ice,” he said. “I took some time off and started playing again when I was 10 when I was living in Florida.”
Powell and his family relocated to Eastlake when he was 13.
“I wanted to keep playing. This is my first season with the Hawks and I plan on doing more,” Powell added enthusiastically. “It’s faster paced, there’s a lot of good competition within the county. It’s something I’ve had fun playing since I was little.”
But ice hockey can be expensive. The price tag for such necessary items as a helmet, stick, chest pad, elbow pads, pants, gloves and skates can reach $1,000.
“The skates and sticks are the most expensive,” explained Powell, a defenseman. “A good stick can cost $200.”
That doesn’t include the cost for ice time for practice sessions, league dues, uniforms, equipment bags or travel expenses. Powell said it costs about $3,000 to play one season with the Hawks, but that includes some provided equipment.
Powell said he’s developing an avid interest in roller hockey. “I was going to do it as a freshman but with all my schoolwork, I didn’t know if I would have the time,” he said. “I joined it as a sophomore. I find it’s a lot of fun. “I like how more open it is — four-on four. There’s more scoring.”
Killeen’s father grew up playing ice hockey in Canada.
“When we came to Eastlake from Japan, my dad didn’t know there was ice hockey here,” explained Killeen, who plays left wing. “But one day my mom, when I was 9, found an ice rink and told my dad about it and I got signed up.”
Killeen discovered at an early age that the sport was for him. “I liked the physical contact and the speed,” he explained.
He also likes representing his school in roller hockey. “My sister played two years ago on the junior varsity team, so I knew about it since the seventh or eighth grade,” he said. “I was excited to play.”
All three players said they would like to play collegiate ice hockey if the opportunity presents itself.
“If I’m good enough to play hockey in college that would be amazing,” Powell said. “If not, I’ll continue playing ice hockey for as long as I can on the side.”