Winter Texans hockey league attracts lifelong athletes in Valley

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POSTED: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 11:36am

UPDATED: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 12:18pm

You can take the ice away from the hockey player, but you can't keep the hockey player away from the ice.

The love for this sport is what unites about thirty Winter Texans living in the McAllen area.  They all come from various parts of Canada and the northern U.S., but they join together on the rink at one of the few spots where ice exists in the Valley--the Frio Grande Valley Ice Center.

"It's all about the camaraderie with the players," said Al Spooner, one of the players in the Winter Texan hockey league.  "It's going and skating with the boys, and afterwards sitting in the dressing room and drinking a couple of pops, so be it, and it's all about the fun."

The league in McAllen has been in existence for about seven years.  Many of the guys in the league have been playing hockey for most of their lives--some have spent more than 60 years on the ice.

"We have about 12 guys who are 70 [years old] or over on our club," explained Ken Thomson, one of the many Canadian players in the league.  "Some of them were very good hockey players and are still very good hockey players.  You learn from them."

The players in this league have also learned to love the luxury of leaving the rink in shorts and sandals during winter.

"It's fabulous," said Bob Lehmann, one of the goalies on the team.  "I mean it's gorgeous weather, playing the sport we love.  They're enjoying it, I'm enjoying it, and when you can leave the rink and it's 80 to 90 degrees, it's pretty nice considering what's going on in Minnesota right now and in Canada.  Lots of snow up there!"

The rivalry between the U.S. and Canadian Olympic hockey teams is well known, and while there's no animosity in the Winter Texan league, when Team USA faces Canada in the Olympics, the friendly feuding comes out."

"There has been some, we have some Americans that play with us obviously, so you know the Canadians get their digs in at them, but it's always good natured," said Thomson.

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