Do You Know About Flockey? It's Kind of a Big Deal
The buzz around East Lansing High School’s annual six-week tradition, the school floor hockey league -- affectionately known as “flockey” -- has already started to build. With the exhausting, but stimulating tournament, students will be grabbing their sticks and the orange balls out of the gym’s storage closet to make their bid at claiming the coveted championship hat.
Once a lesser-known school event, flockey’s participation rate has grown to include one-third of the entire student body competing, making it one of the highlights of the winter semester.
East Lansing High School has hosted the floor hockey tournament for 40 years beginning with MHSAA Hall of Fame coach Jack Piotter, a physical education teacher and varsity football coach, who taught at ELHS for 30 years. He ran the league, and would even referee two games at the same time because of the small-sized gym.
Mark Pendred, a physical education teacher and freshman football coach at ELHS, has continued the tournament for 17 of his 25 years at the school.
“Before when we first had the old gym, you couldn't even have spectators because if you would bring out the bleachers and sit down there was just no room. So everybody would have to wait outside until it was their turn and you never knew who won or was winning until the end of games,” Pendred said.
Thanks to renovations at ELHS from 2000-05, flockey has more space these days, and as many as 400 kids participating.
Pendred is responsible for holding the pre-season meetings, creating schedules, and hiring officials.
For many students, the objective remains the same -- get the hat. The trophy for the league is a hat with the words inscribed: “East Lansing Floor Hockey Champions.”
Joe Benbraham, now a senior -- and the starting quarterback of this year’s varsity football team -- was a member of last year's floor hockey championship team, The Flamingos. He reminisced on winning the title. “It felt amazing,” Benbraham said. “I always dreamt about it when I saw the upperclassmen win when I was a sophomore and a freshman.”
Pendred says there are a number of benefits that students receive from their experience of playing in the school’s flockey league, but for the kids it’s all about being crowned the champions.
“Well that's what the goal of the teams is, I think, winning the hat, and you know along with that is bragging rights,” Pendred said. “But with me the reason I do it is it does a lot of things. Kids form their own teams, they learn to work together, they learn to compete against each other for a common cause, and I just think it brings the school closer together.”
Students can take ownership in the floor hockey league with the creation of team names and even designing jerseys with their nicknames on them. The students wear jerseys every Friday at school during the season as a gesture of solidarity, comradery and pride.
Of course, it’s fun, but flockey also presents an opportunity for a diverse cross-section of East Lansing High School students to unite. All grade levels and all genders are able to try something new and make new friends.
“I play because I enjoy competing with friends,” said senior class President Cadigan Smith, who played on Team Safety Patrol last season, “And since floor hockey isn't a big sport people don't practice as much, so skill levels are very close allowing for good competition.”
“I play flockey for the sport and friends,” East Lansing junior Jayth Joseph (of the Honey Bee’s) said. “No matter if we’re winning or losing, I still get to hang out with my friends and have fun the whole tourney.”
While having fun matters, some teams are looking to gain a competitive edge. Players like Joseph are looking to dethrone The Flamingos this season.
“This year my team will have a few extra practices to make sure we're in sync,” Joseph said.
This electrifying tournament begins this coming winter during President’s Day Weekend and runs through the week before Spring Break. Games are held on Saturdays from 8am-2pm and teams play two games a day until the playoffs begin.
What: East Lansing Floor Hockey League (“flockey”)
When: Feb 16, 2019 - Mar 26, 2019
Times: 8a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturdays
Where: East Lansing High School (gym)
Championship: March 26, 2019
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