Pursuing their NHL dreams | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Pursuing their NHL dreams

Youth hockey players Stanley, Guttry go the extra miles to find tougher competition

Payton Guttry, left, and Cooper Stanley are two of the top three scorers in the U-12 division at the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena. Their offensive skills have caught the attention of the Berkeley Gold Rush, a travelling squad in the Bay Area|Jim Grant|.

Childhood dreams of one day lacing up the skates in the National Hockey League are nothing new to any hockey town in North America.

South Lake Tahoe has been a hockey town for barely a year now but already some youngsters are beginning to reach out to see how good they can become.

For 10-year-olds Cooper Stanley and Payton Guttry that means a weekend commute to Berkeley for a 90-minute practice with the Gold Rush, a Northern California traveling team.

The two South Lake Tahoe elementary school students made the prestigious 15-member team after two tryouts last month at Berkeley Iceland.

“I was expecting there were going to be some really good kids there so Cooper and I wouldn’t make it,” Guttry said. “When they told us that they wanted us on the team, that topped it off.”

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Their selection also satisfied some curiosity that their parents had about the competition in the Bay Area.

“We wanted to see where the talent level is compared to some of the top players of his age in the Bay Area,” said Chuck Stanley, Cooper’s dad. “When a kid is 10, 11 and 12, those are the best years of their lives playing youth sports and good ages to experience as much as they can. After that, it gets more and more serious.”

Dave Guttry, Payton’s dad, pursued the opportunity because of his son’s passion for the game, as well as a curiosity about the caliber of Bay Area youth hockey.

“It’s worth it driving to Berkeley every Saturday for practice. You do what you have to do,” Dave said. “We didn’t know what to expect because there were so many kids trying to make it. Since he made it, I feel I have to hold up my end of the bargain.”

That kept promise keeps Payton smiling.

“Hockey, by far, is my favorite sport,” Payton said. “Because I’m so energetic and hockey is so fast-paced, that’s what I like about it.”

Like his parents, Payton is also making some sacrifices. He practices three times per week, including a 6:30 a.m. workout on Thursdays.

“(South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena Program Coordinator) Chris Perry helps me every Thursday morning and it helps me to get the confidence to go down there and play with some kids who have been doing this for five years and probably are better than me,” Payton said.

When soccer season rolls around, Payton will have to give up his Saturday soccer matches.

“It’s a long drive, but I think it’s worth it. Normally, I just sit and play games,” he said.

Payton can already envision how his hockey career will pan out.

“I want to go pro,” said the Sierra House fourth-grader. “I want to play for the University of Colorado and when I go pro, hopefully, I can play for the Colorado Avalanche.”

Cooper, a fifth-grader at Meyers Elementary School, has similar goals but hopes to break the ice, so to speak, for Lake Tahoe children.

“I want to make it to the NHL and become the first from the area to do it,” he said.

Cooper’s involvement in roller hockey in the valley over the past four years gave him a head-start on many youth hockey players locally.

“Roller hockey doesn’t give you the ice skating skills, but it gives them stick-handling skills,” Chuck Stanley said. “Since the ice rink opened his skating has come along really quickly because guys like Chris Perry and and Gary Moore have made sure they have gotten a lot of ice time.”

The boys also tried out for the Vacaville Vipers in case they didn’t make the Gold Rush squad. They made that team as well, but the decision to play for the Gold Rush became pretty simple.

The Gold Rush will compete in the Whistler International All-Star Hockey Tournament in July in British Columbia, Canada.

“It’s going to be pretty tough because Canada is a tough place to play hockey and there are some really good teams,” Cooper said.