POLK COUNTY, Fla. — A year ago, students at George Jenkins High School didn’t even know they had a hockey team. The team only won one game, but then something magical happened.
This year, they played in the Lightning Cup Final at Amalie Arena.
During the 2018 season the George Jenkins Eagles went 1-20-1.
“So, teaching how to win, it’s not as easy as it sounds,” said Adam Morris, who took over as head coach for the 2019 season.
He said what the team lacked the most was a home.
“All these kids had to drive 45 minutes each way for practice and between 45 minutes to an hour and a half for every game, every game was a road game,” said team manager Joseph Niemas.
Then the players were given a reason to celebrate. An old bowling alley was turned into the new Lakeland Ice Arena.
In response the team went 17-7-1.
“It’s been like a miracle on ice type of story,” said captain Shelby Burnett.
As they piled on win after win, The Eagles became a real inspiration. Three parents on the team are cancer survivors.
“It kind of brought the team closer together, we had a hockey fights cancer night and we raised money and awareness,” said sophomore Jake Richard.
All of a sudden, Lakeland became a hockey town.
“That’s going to motivate generations and generations, to try and strive for the same excellence and the same success,” said Burnett.
“We are going into the grocery stores, and people are saying if they see me wearing the jacket they are saying, ‘hey coach how’s it going,’ that’s something that I don’t think has ever happened, at least with hockey, in the city of Lakeland,” said Morris.
The Eagles went on to win their division and skated all the way into the Lightning Cup Championship Game at Amalie Arena, where they lost a hard-fought battle to Seminole High School.
“I’m extremely proud, these are my boys, so seeing them play at Amalie where the Lighting play and everything, it’s nice to see them succeed and be happy,” said Burnett.