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Former Thoroughblades evaluate local youths' talent

Iain Fraser was the original captain of the Thoroughblades and will coach the Pee Wees.
Iain Fraser was the original captain of the Thoroughblades and will coach the Pee Wees.

Blasts from the past came together Sunday at the Lexington Ice Center to encourage blasts into the future.

Four members of the old Kentucky Thoroughblades helped evaluate talent as the Central Kentucky Hockey Association held the first of two travel team tryouts.

Included were three captains of the former American Hockey League team: Iain Fraser and Jarrod Skalde, both centers, and left wing Jarrett Deuling. They were joined by right wing Chris Lipsett.

Lipsett, 37, has been a player/assistant coach the past two seasons for the Dayton Gems of the Central Hockey League. He has retired from playing and will be moving to Lexington to become the CKHA director of operations, and will coach the Lexington Thoroughbreds Squirts (ages 9-10) and Mites (7-8).

His return coincides with a new affiliation between Lexington youth hockey and Huntsville, Ala.-based TPH — Total Package Hockey.

Just as interest in hockey surged when the Thoroughblades came to Lexington, the NCAA Division I program at Alabama-Huntsville has fanned the sport's flame.

Huntsville has more than 1,000 youth hockey players, about 10 times the size of Lexington's group.

Three CKHA players — two Squirts and one Mite — were selected for the Huntsville team that will play a AAA (elite) event at Detroit in two weeks.

Keith Rowe, TPH's director of hockey and a longtime friend of Lipsett, oversaw Sunday's tryouts.

"For this travel program, especially the Pee Wee team, it was unbelievable talent for this area," Rowe said. "Thinking of it as a non-traditional hockey market, the skill level at these tryouts were great.

"Our thing is to not only worry about the top-end kids, but the grassroots — starting new kids, the house-league players. So, hopefully in five years we have 300 kids instead of 110."

Lipsett scored 25 goals for the T-blades during the 1999-2000 season and followed with a 21-goal, 34-assist effort in the team's final season.

"Really good," he said of the talent he saw Sunday. "The Pee Wees (11-12) looked really good, and I was excited for my Squirts. ... I think the quality of coaching that they're going to get from ex-NHLers and ex-pro guys all around is just going to help them develop and get better."

Fraser, 42, will coach the Pee Wees. The original captain of the Thoroughblades, he scored 60 points (27 goals, 33 assists) in 57 games for Kentucky in the 1996-97 season. He played for six NHL teams and lives in Louisville.

"I came in with a little bit of apprehension about what level the kids were at and where we would have to start teaching them how to play the game," Fraser said. "But they're far, far more developed than I thought (they) would be. It's going to be a nice, fun job for me."

Deuling, 38, reached the NHL with the Islanders and netted 180 points over four seasons in Lexington.

He divides time between Lexington and other sites that include his native Yukon Territory. He will help with Mites and Squirts.

Skalde, 41, played for eight NHL teams. He spent parts of two seasons with the T-blades, totaling 77 points (22 goals, 55 assists) in 77 games.

Now, he's coach of the East Coast Hockey League's Cincinnati Cyclones. He conducted a skills camp two summers ago at the Ice Center, and will have a similar camp when the travel teams prepare in August to open the season.

Lexington horseman and hockey parent John Sikura, who coached the Squirts last season, thinks that the presence of TPH and ex-T-blades will help the sport.

The program has 80 full sets of equipment available for participants.

"If you want to take it serious and plan on being a college or pro hockey player, we have a program for you," Sikura said. "If you want to play once a week and have fun with your friends ... we have a program for you, too."

For more information, see the CKHA Web site: www.centralkentuckyhockey.com.

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