By Seth Daniel
When it’s snowy outside and cold during the dark mornings of January and February, there’s one place for the past 30 years that folks have come alive – and that place is around the uniquely Charlestown sport of Gym Hockey.
The Charlestown Gym Hockey League has deep roots in the Town, and is as popular with returning residents as it is with those who live here. Children from as young as 3 1/2 years old to as old as 9 have found their start in the sport of hockey on the plywood flooring of church basements and the slick flooring of gym floors for some 30 years or more in the storied league.
Jimbo Tucker, president of the league, organizes the gym hockey with Vice President Tim Dacey and Debbie Lent. Tucker’s run in the league goes back about 30 years, with 20 years spent at St. Mary’s Church and another 10 at the current location in the Boys & Girls Club on High Street.
“I started it out at St. Mary’s and had four teams on Saturday mornings,” said Tucker. “It went from four teams to 14 teams and we were there from 7:30 a.m. to 4;30 p.m. every Saturday. We’ve had some really good players start out here. We’ve had a couple of kids who went on to play in the NHL. We’ve had several boys and girls who have gone on to play Division 1 hockey in college, and we’ve had players who have played in high school teams in all the divisions. The numbers are down a little now because there are so many other sports that have come in, like soccer and lacrosse, but it’s still a very popular program. If it’s a cold winter, that’s when you get bombarded with kids.”
The program goes for 12 to 15 weeks in the winter months, and games are played on Saturday mornings. Right now, there are between 85 and 100 kids playing.
The sport is based on hockey and is meant to teach discipline, teamwork and give kids a beginning knowledge of the rules of hockey.
“We’ve had good players like Jimmy Vesey, Matt Grzelcyk and the Hayes brothers played here