Ice hockey in Florida in June?
Believe it or not, it's kinda hot. The Central Florida High School Hockey League wraps up its first full-fledged season with a final four playoff on Thursday and Saturday at the RDV Sportsplex Ice Den in Maitland.
The Solar Bears Cup, presented by Orlando's ECHL professional team, goes to the champion.
"It's actually pretty nice to be in a hockey rink in the summertime in Florida," points out Julio Guerra, president of the board for a seven-team league that is dubbed the Solar Bears Conference in the Florida high school hockey ranks.
The South Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL are sponsoring partners for youth and high school hockey in their markets, and Guerra said those leagues have produced USA Hockey national title teams.
The Solar Bears provided jerseys and socks, skills clinics and other support.
"Our goal is to foster an interest in hockey at all levels," said Solar Bears executive Bob Ohrablo.
The CFHSHL had about 110 players from 38 high schools this season and hopes for continued growth. Guerra said Winter Park and Lake Mary are close to being able to field "pure" teams made up of players solely from their schools.
Seminole County South, the regular season league leader with a 7-1 record, plays a 7 p.m. semi vs. Seminole North (4-4) on Thursday. The 9 p.m. game pits Volusia (6-2) vs. Orange County West (5-3). Winners advance to Saturday's 4:30 p.m. final.
FHSAA cuts school costs
The Florida High School Athletic Association continues to trim costs for cash-strapped schools.
The latest move by the governing body makes it easier for schools to host multi-school district or regional events in cross country, swimming, track and field wrestling. The FHSAA has eliminated its cut, which was 15 percent of the gate or the total net profit if it was less than that percentage. The policy change also reduces paperwork.
"For something like wrestling, that's going to be about a $200 savings," said Hagerty athletic director Jay Getty. "It's significant. They've trying to make it as easy as possible and worthwhile monetarily to host. It's a lot of work. Nobody wants to host a meet and lose money."
Critics labeled the Gainesville-based FHSAA as greedy during recent legislative debates. But among the rank and file that stance has certainly softened.
Citing economic challenges for schools the association approved a "temporary" 50-percent cut in membership dues two years ago. Last week, its board of directors voted to give executive director Roger Dearing the authority to continue that reduction.
FBVA makes 20-year transition
Orlando's Florida Basketball & Volleyball Association recently celebrated a 20-year anniversary and a changing of the guard. John Basile, the passionate founder and president of FBVA since day one in 1993, handed leadership reins over to Kevin Leslie, a league alum who went on to play basketball for Colonial High, Flagler College and overseas professional teams.
FBVA in its heyday was a launching pad for a 2006 Orlando Comets girls national title team and many of the best high school players we have seen come through Central Florida – including current NBA players Chandler Parsons and Austin Rivers; current European pros Nick Calathes, Pat Calathes, Darius Washington and Taurean Green; and WNBA center Krystal Thomas.
Basile said the association conducted over a million games in its first two decades.
"Grassroots basketball in this area took off with the influence of the Orlando Magic," Basile said. "We'd like to think we had something to do with that."
Sam Vincent, a member of the original Orlando Magic in 1989-90 and now a staffer for the National Basketball Retired Players Association, has joined the FBVA lineup. He spoke at the 20-year ceremony at NBA City and is teaming with FBVA to coordinate a youth basketball camp this month.