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Dordt Blades head into a new year

By Sally Jongsma

The Dordt Blades hockey team is drawing enthusiastic local support for the game of hockey and for the city’s All Seasons Center, their home ice. The support is evident in the numbers of children enrolled in the Sioux Center youth hockey program at the All Seasons Center. According to Nate Van Niejenhuis (’03), facilities director of the center and head coach of the Blades, the youth hockey club had eighty-four players last year, but expects over a hundred this year. The Blades also volunteer their time to help coach youth league teams. As a result, young hockey players and their parents make up an increasing proportion of the crowds of 700 to 900 spectators that cheer on the team at its Friday night home games.

“After every game the kids are standing around the locker room trying to get autographs from Blades players,” says Van Niejenhuis. Both the college players and the youth league players thrive on the relationships that have grown. And although Van Niejenhuis admits that hockey players will be hockey players in the heat of the game, he believes that their involvement with the young players affects their demeanor and attitudes.

The Dordt College Blades are coming off a successful season after which they graduated many talented seniors and earned an invitation to the national tournament. This year's group of rookies looks promising, though, says Coach Nate Van Niejenhuis.

The Dordt College Blades are coming off a successful season after which they graduated many talented seniors and earned an invitation to the national tournament. This year's group of rookies looks promising, though, says Coach Nate Van Niejenhuis.

For the Blades, the All Seasons Center has been a dream come true. Although they have always been a club sport at Dordt, the Blades have had a loyal following of spectators over the years despite the fact that they had to travel to places such as Sioux City, Luverne, or Worthington—all an hour away—for their home ice. Being a club sport means, among other things, that players aren’t recruited to play hockey and aren’t given scholarships to play. As a result, every year you wait to see who shows up before you know what the team will be like, says Van Niejenhuis. This summer was especially uncertain for Van Niejenhuis as coach. The team, which was already smaller than ideal during second semester because of injuries and players leaving college or going on off-campus programs, graduated five seniors including Captain Jordan Herrema. Van Niejenhuis says Herrema did an amazing job of helping the players work as a unit.

Despite the loss of key players the team captured the Great Plains Collegiate Hockey Association (GPCHA) championship and, as one of the top twenty out of the 315 teams in the Association, was invited to the national tournament. Although they were unable to go because of budget constraints, the Blades had a great year and knew they had played well.

This year’s team is made up of half rookies and only one senior, says Van Niejenhuis. Nevertheless, he has been pleasantly surprised and is excited about their potential. As in the past, the players come primarily from Canada, although Van Niejenhuis says that the number of players coming from northern states and even California seems to be growing.

“We can be competitive,” says Van Niejenhuis. “It depends on how quickly the players mature and begin to play as a team.”

The Blades traveled to Colorado to play a series of games during during the first weekend of October. Throughout the fall and winter they will play other club teams from Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota.