The tired gray carpeting looked decades old from the constant traffic. Ice rinks are infamous for being booked at all hours of the day. The lobby was empty and quiet even though small groups of parents were scattered throughout. They were all at different stages of departure. Some chatting while their children waited. Some eagerly escorting their 12 year olds out the doors, while carrying hockey bags as large and sometimes larger than themselves.
I was waiting for Greg Mrofcza, head varsity coach of the York Hockey Club. His team was practicing that night after 9pm. I had asked if I could photograph a practice. I was exploring the idea of a documentary project about high school hockey. Greg is a wise cracking, sneaky, and loyal leader of men. He stands taller than a second observation would reveal. His confidence is apparent in his black shirt and suit coat, green tie and firm hand shake. He physically looks like he could be a coach on the sideline of any sports team. This guy could coach cheerleading, look natural, and they would be the toughest cheer team in the state. His no-nonsense squared jaw is often offset by joke and a flash of a smile. Over the previous two years, I had met Greg half a dozen times, each time he asked me to photograph his hockey team.
Greg lead me down to the depths of the ice arena to the York locker room. At the end of a dimly lit hall was a green door with a black “YD” team logo stenciled at eye level. Upon opening the door, there is a dirty tan colored floor and off-white walls flanked by green benches. Two couches are positioned like stadium seating at a private theatre complete with a makeshift entertainment center. All of it is donated by the parents and club supporters. At the time, I had know idea how important this room was to this team. Because ice rinks are rented by the teams, they don’t have dedicated locker rooms. York is likely the only high school team in Illinois to have such a thing.
This documentary follows the team as they prepare to play their games, practice, and eventually through their playoff run. Characters are introduced to illustrate the teams identity. The end of the season holds a sadness that is similar to a wake. It is an ending that is inevitable. The team tries with weary legs to force one more day of ice time, one more day of brotherhood. The season ends, as all seasons do, but there is something else lurking in the details that will forge or fracture all of their camaraderie.
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