Staying cool on the ice
By Erica Singleton | Photography by Jamey Price
Posted: Friday, Jul. 06, 2012
"Don't Eat the Yellow Snow," warned the lyrics of Frank Zappas 1974 hit song by the same name. The tongue-in-cheek phrase wouldn't seem like a good emblem, or team name, but for founder and captain Chris Page and his teammates on the C-2 men's hockey team, Yellow Snow just seems to fit.
Page, a native of St. Louis, Mo., started playing hockey in 1990. His family moved from Gulfport, Miss., to a house off of Providence Road, when his father (a Naval Officer) chose to retire in Charlotte. In North Carolina, Page began his hockey career with the Bantam league at Eastland Mall.
"I played forward, mainly center, and rotated into other positions when needed," says Page. "I played anything but goalie."
Page played until a car wreck in 1995 sidelined him. He continued playing recreational hockey while studying at Central Piedmont Community College, and even went to tryouts for the Mississippi Seawolves and the Charlotte Checkers.
In 2006, then a resident of Indian Trail, Page watched as the Extreme Ice Rink was being constructed, just a quarter mile for his home.
"The day they opened their doors, I went in to ask them about having a league," says Page.
There wasn't a league yet, so he joined on the inaugural year of the Extreme Ice Instructional League, or I-League. Through the I-League, players learned skating basics and puck control. Page was an assistant instructor with the I-League, when one of the players, Emra Hopkins, told him if she ever had a team she would call it Yellow Snow. The idea stuck with Page, and in the fall of 2007 when he started his team, so did the name.
Don't mess with the Yellow Snow
"Theres always a chuckle, and a roll of the eyes [about the name]," says Dr. Adam Spitz. An endocrinologist, Dr. Spitz grew up in upstate New York playing street hockey and pick-up games, but he took to the ice seven years ago when his youngest daughter started ice-skating. He joined the I-League, and Yellow Snow, when Page created his team.
And though his daughter stopped ice-skating three years ago, after 12 seasons, Spitz, who lives in Dilworth, still makes the commute to Extreme Ice.
"The big reason I keep playing is that it's a nice group of guys, says Spitz. Though Chris and I are the only original [Yellow Snow members], there's still a core group of players that have been with the team more than a couple of years. It makes it more fun."
And with a name like Yellow Snow, you can imagine this is a laid-back bunch.
"We're not gonna scare anybody," adds Spitz. "It's not like we're Blue Steel or Black Ice."
Though the name may not be intimating, the Yellow Snow team remains something to take seriously.
Competition and conversation piece
Many Yellow Snow players are recruits from the I-League, like wingman Todd Crumbaugh and Lewisville, NC, native Chris Brown. Assistant co-captain Don Kirwan didn't start playing hockey until 2007, after he started coaching his sons team. "I figured if I was instructing him, reasons Kirwan, "I should know what I was talking about."
Not everyone is new to the game, though. Goalie Steve Ganc has been playing hockey since he was 5 years old. "I grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania and played a lot of pond hockey and roller hockey for fun, but I never played in any leagues until a few years ago," says Ganc. Now he's one of a handful of goalies called on by different teams.
"I started out playing in the instructional league for a few months in 2006," says Ganc. "Then I got the opportunity to fill in for two different teams for two seasons." When the other team goalies returned, Ganc went to the leagues tryout session. "Thats where Chris selected me for his team. Im not sure if it was because of my talent level or the fact that my pads at that time were bright yellow."
Whatever the reason, Ganc has been with the team for 11 seasons now. The other assistant coach, Tom Hector, has been there for 10 seasons, having played in 124 games, second only behind Page at 155.
Yellow Snow play three seasons a year: in the winter from January through May, in the summer from June through August, and in the fall from late September through December.It's not the competition that keeps the players coming back. It's the camaraderie.
"We do a lot of different team outings that have really brought the group close together, says Ganc. I think that is what keeps our team going and why players looking for a team always show interest in Yellow Snow."
And more than just a team, Yellow Snow is a family. Their wives and families are in the stands at most games, especially during the summer season.
"Our third season with the team, my wife hand-made Yellow Snow T-shirts for some of the other wives," says Hector. "Then we got the idea to have them printed."
Spitz, an avid cyclist, had a Yellow Snow bike jersey designed. The team has T-shirts, bumper stickers and a growing following.
"People look at you a little funny at first, but then when you explain what [Yellow Snow] is, they think its awesome," says Ganc. "We have a lot of different pieces of merchandise floating around the city, and any time someone sees them its a good 15-minute conversation and a new fan is born."
Together, the players and their families have gone on outings to Checkers games and have taken Olde Mecklenburg, Birdsong and NoDa brewery tours.
"It's a beer league," says Kirwan. "At the end of the game... win or lose, it's all washed down by beer."
Drink the beer. Just remember, dont eat the Yellow Snow!
For more information contact Chris Page at email@example.com.