Skating Home: Covering Mid-Missouri Hockey Families

Skating Home is a two-part photographic, digital presentation exploring family in the relation to the sport of hockey. It is this familial dedication that has allowed two organizations toteach generations of central Missouri kids a sport that requires a considerableamount of effort to learn despite being in a place with sparse access to thenecessary facilities.

The first chapter, Highway to Hockey, documents a Columbia family and how they seek ice hockey through a weekly commitment to travel whether its 30 minutes down US Highway 63 or 2 hours away across Interstate 70. The second chapter, Adam’s Hockey Heart, follows a single main character who has formed a family around himself through his hockey relationships in Hallsville and Macon. 

Chapter One

Highway to Hockey

Chapter 2

Adam's Hockey Heart

Central Missouri Hockey History 

There is only one indoor ice rink in central Missouri with a dedicated youth hockey program. It is a 62-year-old arena in Washington Park located in Jefferson City.

 The ice rink known as the Ice Chalet in Columbia lasted less than a decade from 1974-1981. It has since been demolishe dafter a life as an antique store, a church and bowling alley. It was the original rink of the MU Hockey Club. Since the 1990s, there have been attempts to bring a rink to Columbia, but none came to fruition including John Lamond's attempt with the Boone Ice Group in 2010, according to the Columbia Parks and Recreations Department. 

The Washington Park Arena has been the home to the Mid-Missouri Tigers Youth hockey organization since 2009 when the Jefferson City Capitals and the Mid-Missouri Eagles merged. It was estimated 72-100 children each year participate in the Mid-Missouri Tigers program out of 8,887 total registered USA Hockey players in Missouri, according to a 2021 report conducted by Firland Managementand JC Parks in an effort by the city to determine the feasibility, cost, and market for a rink replacement at the Missouri State Penitentiary location. The study also indicated that “participants from Columbia can make up 30-50% of travel youth hockey players in a given year” as the arena is the primary ice rink between the Kanas City and St. Louis hockey markets.

When Willie Trent closed Empire Skating Rink in 2019, he ended an 80-year era of roller skating in Columbia. Empire was the home to the Columbia Rogues—an adult rink hockey team that won 4 bronze division national championships with Trent—and a myriad of skate nights and parties. Within central Missouri the remaining roller rinks are Cosmopolitan Park’s outdoor rink, Sk8 Zone in Jefferson City, Level Up Entertainment, Macon Skate Center, and Whitney Briggs Memorial Arena in Hallsville. Both Sk8 Zone, Level Up, and Macon Skate Center are traditional roller rinks with open skating and events. Sk8 Zone hosts a youth roller speed skating team, a part of the Mid-South Speed League. Macon Skate Center was aplace for pickup games for kids after school in the early 2000s. For three seasons in the 2010s, Adam Johnston coached the roller rink’s only youth hockey team. The team played against those within the Twister’s league. The Macon Skate hockey team has since dissolved. Cosmo Skate Park is an 85’ x 185’ public rink that is used for pickup hockey and roller derbies found at Columbia’slargest municipal park. Similar to Stephens Lake, the park rink is frequented by the Como hockey Facebook group members and other residents, but there is no official youth league devised for the rink. The second of the two youth hockey organizations in central Missouri is found in Hallsville, the motto of which is “The Small Town with a Big Heart.”

Whitney Briggs Memorial Arena, named posthumously in honor of the girl who started it all, has been a clandestine home for those in central Missouri seeking roller hockey for the past 24 years. When Bill Bott moved from California to Jefferson City, he found Twisters through their website. “The first time I visited thecourt was like a cross between the “Field of Dreams and the Mighty Ducks”movies,” Bott said. “Almost as unusual as a baseball diamond rising from a corn field, the court is remarkably well designed for such a small town, and odd location. The kids proudly wearing their team t-shirts, skate around as if ESPN were covering their game.”

In 1994, a group of kids led by Whitney Briggs, her father John Briggs and John McGhee started playing hockey in a then newly paved cull de sac at the end of Fairview Street with 2x4s and sheets as goals. As interest grew from the neighborhood kids, they moved to the Hallsville Elementary school’s parking lot.

When the Lions Club poured a 100x80ft slab of concrete for the Heritage Days Festival 3 on 3 basketball tournament, the Briggs decided to organize a league for the fall of 1998. Whitney and her friend Gloria Stenger named the leagueTwisters after the 1997 movie. The age divisions are the classes of tornados: F2 for the younger kids, F4 for the older kids, and F5 for the adults. They had 45 players amongst 4 teams with different colored shirts: red, green, gray, and black. The black team won the McGhee Cup in the league’s inaugural season and Johnathon Kemp of Fulton was awarded Most Valuable player. A year later, 70 kids were playing and by 2000, there were 101.

The Twisters wanted to improve their skating grounds because 100 feet was not long enough for hockey. John Briggs and Jeff Tinker looked down the hillside of the Hallsville Fairgrounds and knew that would be the place. They got a sponsorship from Columbia Ready Mix and built a rink with yellow 2x4s around the perimeter. When a puck was shot wide, they would throw in a new one to keep the pace of play.

By 2002, they expanded with over 180 kids across nine teams including those from Hallsville, Moberly, Columbia, Mexico, Centralia, Fulton, and Jefferson City and additional facilities in Moberly at Rothwell Park and Jefferson City at an indoor skating rink. For three seasons in the mid-2010s, the league featured a team from the Macon Skate Rink. When Empire Skating Rink closed in 2018, Twister’s purchased the electronic scoreboard, which sits in the southeastern corner of the rink. In 2020, the league replaced the stack of 2x4’s and netting with the same type of boards that encompass Cosmo Roller Park. Since its peak with around 200 players across multiple towns in the mid-2000s, the League has dwindled down to a small but passionate family. There are 3 F2 teams and 3 F4 teams from Hallsville. 

Washington Park Arena and Whitney Briggs Memorial Arena are the homes for youth hockey in central Missouri.

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