By Matt Goisman
KIOWA — When the Cox family moved from Frederic, Wis., to Kiowa in July 2011, son Patrick was about to start the second grade. But having spent his first seven years in snowy Wisconsin, Patrick had already fallen in love with hockey.
Since the move, Patrick, now a 9-year-old fourth-grade student at Kiowa, has found new ice on which to skate: the Oilers Ice Center in Tulsa.
“You just get to have fun doing what you want to do,” Patrick said Thursday.
Patrick is in his second year playing for the Tulsa Junior Oilers, a team of 9- and 10-year-olds that practices twice a week. Each season starts in September and also includes at least two weekends a month playing other teams of similar-aged kids.
Sometimes that just means a home game against Oklahoma City; but sometimes it means a trip to Dallas, Minnesota and even Chicago.
“In Chicago, they were a good team, and they had good sportsmanship,” Patrick said.
“We went to the (Chicago) Blackhawks game, and we rode a bus that was supposed to take only 30 minutes but it ended up taking two hours because of traffic.”
Of course, Patrick can’t make these trips to Tulsa by himself. One of Patrick’s parents — Valerie Cox, 43, or Thomas Cox, 48 — takes him, and the family has also gone with him to games both within and outside of Oklahoma.
“It gets long, tiring, but he loves to do it,” Valerie said.
Patrick said he wants to do it “until I just can’t do it anymore.”
Thomas Cox added, “He keeps his grades up, so that’s another agreement he had to do. And seeing he’s on the superintendent’s list, I can’t argue.”
Valerie, a paraprofessional for Kiowa Public Schools and a consultant for Tastefully Simple, Inc., said when she searched for youth hockey leagues two years ago, she could only find teams in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Dallas. She chose Tulsa because it was the closest.
Patrick said most of his Junior Oilers teammates live near Tulsa and don’t have to travel nearly as far to play hockey.
Patrick is a forward for the Junior Oilers, usually playing on a wing. He’s been nicknamed “Bull” by his teammates, Valerie said, because “for awhile there, he likes it when he’s going fast, he likes to keep his head down.”
Patrick got his first goal as a Junior Oiler at a tournament in Dallas earlier this year.
“It landed on my back,” Patrick said of his first goal, which came off a rebound. “I flipped the puck up, it landed on my stick, flipped it (into the goal). I was surprised the goalie didn’t block it.”
Patrick’s second year with the Junior Oilers hasn’t been without complication, however. He suffered a broken collarbone trying to clear out a puck in a Nov. 17 game and hasn’t been able to play since.
“I hit it, he banged me into the boards, my skate took out his skate and he ended up falling on top of me,” Patrick said, adding that the player who fell on him outweighed Patrick by about 50 pounds.
Patrick also added, “But I finished my shift.”
The injury left Patrick’s right arm in a sling and Patrick out of action until at least Jan. 17, when he’ll get new X-rays to see if he’s healed enough to lace up his skates again.
Though Patrick is eager to get back on the ice, Thomas said the injury hasn’t been without its benefits.
“He gets cute girls to write his work for him at school because his teacher won’t let him write,” Thomas said, laughing.
Thomas, a quality assurance specialist for ammunition and surveillance at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, said Patrick likely developed his love for hockey in school in Frederic, Wis., as most of his classmates learned to skate and play hockey very early on. Neither Thomas, who grew up in New Brunswick, N.J., nor Valerie said they played hockey as children, but Patrick’s favorite team is the New Jersey Devils.
Neither Thomas nor Valerie may have played hockey, but they could soon find themselves with not one but two children lacing up their skates. Valerie said their 5-year-old daughter, Claire, has already expressed interest in joining a team.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.