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The Dawn of a New Era
From the moment he stepped onto the “ice” with the bubs, it was clear that Ryan O’Leary was a different sort of hockey player. His game is full of heart, and he plays with a sense of ease that knows no bounds. Each and every one of the bubs can recount a time where the “Irishman” went between the legs on a breakaway; to score a difficult goal in a fashion that to any other would be impossible. For O’Leary however, the game is not only a natural progression of stick and puck, but of mind and spirit. To many in the league, the game of hockey has been a salient piece of their life that grows and changes with them each year. Ryan is no different, to him hockey is perhaps as analogous to the realities of growing up and foraging a path through life as it is a simple game.
One of the greatest aspects of a player like Ryan O’Leary’s game is not the innate ability to score at will, or the incredible handles, (which he most certainly has in spades) but the heart with which he plays the game. While he might come off as a bulldog on the court as he charges into the offensive zone, the reality is that he plays for the future. As a kid growing up in Northside, Ryan honed his skills and learned the game of hockey thanks to the hard work of his father, Jay (also a player in the CSHL). In paying for ice time and gear, not only did Jay help Ryan to learn the game of hockey, but also the importance of hard work and sacrifice. This is of course now something that Ryan not only wants to impart on his own children, but in pertinence to the league, the kids of the CSHL youth program.
It is not hard to see why a guy like Ryan O’Leary became a team captain in the league. Beyond his abilities as a player there is an openness to his personality, and a sincerity that cannot be duplicated. His willingness to stop and help a player understand how to make their snapshot a little better, or just have a frank conversation about their kitchen light that keeps going out is a testament to his down to earth relatability. The next time we witness a perfect Ryan O’Leary pass for assist to Thunder, or a between the legs dangle that puts another player straight on their ass, don’t forget to look for the signs of pure unadulterated joy on the face of one of the leagues longest tenured playmakers. Vicariously we can all take a little bit of that enjoyment for ourselves. Even as the signs of youth are stripped away from our faces, the game of hockey can continue to illicit the same feelings that were first experienced so many years before the CSHL.
“May the bubs always be at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, and the goals fall into your opposing net.”
By Luke Effler
Ominous clouds shifted across the sky in Covington, Kentucky. The blue gray pallor of the heavens seemed foreboding in their complexion. The vapor seemed as if it were holding court, to decide whether or not these grounds would be able to take the torrent contained within nimbus and stratus. On April 17th, 2021, however, no amount of rain could have stopped the events planned from unfolding at Barb Cook Park. The new home of the Covington Street Hockey League was announced, and the bubs were out in force.
Come rain, or come shine, the fine folks of the league were going to play the great game of hockey. The culmination of years of hard work, and tenacious petitioning has finally found a home for street hockey in the Greater Cincinnati area. With the boards from Dayton, Ohio’s legendary Hara Arena installed, the only thing that needed to be done was to drop a puck.
Before any athletic endeavor could begin, Covington Mayor Joe Meyer spoke about the importance of the park as a cornerstone to the community in Latonia and Covington, and gave his blessing. He, alongside Barb Cook’s daughter, cut the ceremonial ribbon to indicate that the festivities of the day should begin. Then after tossing the prescribed first puck at the new rink the games began.
In the first game, CSHL youth program showed off the talents of some promising young players, who even in the midst of a light drizzle showed toughness and skill on the blacktop. The plan to develop the next generation of players beginning with the simplest of urges “play to have fun”. No one argued the concept and after the kids left the court, their adult counterparts took the phrase in stride.
Many folks showed up to skate, watch, and cheer from the stands. The ice cold Braxton beer, and the Django Tacos kept everyone sated throughout. A considerably exciting display of ability and a wide array of style was on display. A typical send for the bubs, but one which surely wowed the crowd gathered. Playing well into the night, the new court even registered its first night spectacle… under the lights, and under the stars. Some may speak about this send in the years to come and say how they remember seeing flow from under helmet whisper in the wind, like a bird flying from its coop. Those who remember, will always have a place in their hearts for stick and puck, and will always be thanked for coming out.
By Luke Effler