HESS AND THE CUP â€” Cody Hess of Decatur holds of the championship trophy after his Helena, Montana Bighorns won the Tier 3 Junior hockey title. (Photo provided)
An effort to find a physical outlet for a hyper-active six-year-old boy started a series of events 13 years ago which dramatically changed the lives of the Hess family.
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"I was a really hyper kid and dad wanted to get me involved in a sport, but I was too young for soccer or some of the other sports," said Cody Hess of his father, Greg.
"Dad came on home and said, 'I signed you up for roller hockey to take some of your energy away,' and I cried and didn't want to go, and pleaded not to go. I ended up going and loving it, and it's been hockey every since," admitted Cody, who swapped his final two years of high school to pursue his hockey addiction.
Cody, who would have been a 2010 Bellmont High graduate, recently returned home after his third season on the road, playing junior hockey. He spent a year in Boston playing for the Boston Junior Blackhawks and the last two hockey seasons in Helena, Montana. His season away runs seven to eight months.
This time, he brought home some hardware as his Helena, Montana Bighorns won the Junior A, Tier 3 national championship, beating the El Paso Rhinos 6-1 in the title game.
"The Bighorns have been to the national tourney four or five times in a row but could never get into the finals, and we almost didn't this year," said Hess, noting that his squad lost its first game of pool play 4-3 to the Walpole Express of the Atlantic Junior Hockey League.
The Bighorns earned the wildcard spot, beat Walpole 4-3 in the first game of the finals and rolled to the crown with a 5-1 tourney record, putting the squad at 69-3 for the season.
The 6-2, 175-pound Hess scored 114 points for the Bighorns. "The center is more of a playmaker, sets up the wingers and helps out the defensemen. I help get the puck in my zone, break it out of the zone and it eventually it could come back to me, or, more likely, I might get a rebound. That's usually how I score a goal," said Hess, who has one year of junior hockey remaining as he works for a spot on a college roster.
"After we won the championship, I texted mom (Kim Hess) and told her that I finally made the right decision. Cody one, mom zero! She was against some of these moves. She didn't want me to go so far away," noted Cody, who somehow got parental approval and support for his odyssey.
"I've given up a lot for hockey, high school, proms, and all of that stuff. But it was worth it," declared Hess, who admitted that he might do things just a bit differently if he played it over again.
Hess graduated on time, and with a 3.22 GPA, but from Ashworth (on line) University. "I took classes on line. You have to teach yourself. You read the lessons and it tells you how to do it. You can email questions, but that takes time. If I would go back, I would just go to school where ever I played," he noted of his lost high school days.
So, how does one get from roller skating bedlam in Decatur, Indiana to Helena, Montana, with its 30-below-zero winter trials?
"Guy Duplee, who played for the (Fort Wayne) Komets came down and ran a camp at roller hockey (The Rage). I got to talking to him (about age 10) and he suggested that I play ice hockey, to go to Fort Wayne and give it a try. I did, I liked it, and moved to the ice," said Hess, who still plays roller hockey with his friends, including best friend Chris Loshe.
"Through that invitation I was put on a house team and two weeks later I tried out for my first travel team. I was really nervous, but I ended up making the team and it's been ice hockey ever since," said Hess, who noted that he picked up ice skating as easily as he had roller skating.
Hess played two years for Fort Wayne North Side in the local high school league before getting an invitation to go to Boston. He couldn't resist.
Cody wasn't alone in his road from the Rage roller hockey league to an ice hockey avocation. Loshe has also gone through the ranks, playing for the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Owls two years ago.
Cody feels that another year of junior hockey will put him in line for a college hockey scholarship. "It's been a long road. I think my mom understands now that I can get a college education out of this, and play some hockey while I'm there."
Cody's rage for hockey makes that a pretty safe bet.