Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Learn to play hockey comes to Cheney March 3

Warhorse Hockey looks to engage West Plains kids in a sport they can play and enjoy over a lifetime


February 22, 2018

I.E. Warhorse Hockey

Now based in Cheney at the Eastern Washington University's Recreation Center ice rink, the Inland Empire Hockey Association wants to get more kids playing the game on the West Plains and are doing a "Try Hockey For Free" event March 3.

The Inland Empire Amateur Hockey Association has a new home in Cheney and they want to invite the community to get to know them, and their sport.

Along with USA Hockey, the national body that oversees all amateur aspects of the sport, the local organization will present a "Try Hockey for Free" event at Eastern Washington University's Recreation Center ice rink on Saturday, March 3 starting at 1 p.m. It's part of a "Hockey Weekend Across America" where the youth sport is spotlighted nationwide.

Known as Warhorse Hockey, the group has settled in Cheney, hopefully for good, and looks to grow interest in the sport in the area.

"It's a pretty well-kept secret to most," Matt Petro, coach of the learn to play program said of EWU's rink. "It's really neat having such a good facility out at Eastern."

He sees this as a good way to grow the game on the West Plains among younger players because the rink is so accessible with a relatively short drive to Cheney.

The March 3 event is geared for kids age four through nine, and who have never played the game before. But other ages can attend. Warhorse Hockey will provide all necessary equipment at no charge with skate rental available, too.

Hockey is not a very affordable sport with demands for equipment and ice rental.

But Warhorse families have donated equipment their kids have outgrown, and the organization engages with the Nels Venerus Foundation, named for a former longtime Spokane hockey player who passed away and donated estate funds to benefit youth hockey.

"In terms of skating, if a kid can at least stand up on skates, propel themselves, and be able to get back up when they fall, that's all they need," Petro said.

But even that is not a must.

An important aspect for the Try Hockey day is there is not a need to know how to skate as that, too will be part of the instruction. "That's one of our big selling points, we'll have adult coaches and people out there helping," Petro said.

Petro, retired from the U.S. Air Force and now an elementary school teacher in Spokane, said he has been a hockey coach for 18 years, mostly with his son who has since graduated from Medical Lake High School, attends the University of Idaho - and plays hockey there for the club team.

"This particular event is intended to, as our young foundation is starting to grow up, to refill that young learning age," he said.

While many see the rough and rugged side of the sport, few know that hockey is one of the few competitive sports that one can play with various groups their entire lives. Unlike other team sports, hockey is played in organized youth, recreational and oldtimer groups across North America with players even in their 90s.

The Warhorse organization had its beginnings several decades ago and first played at the former Walk-In-The-Wild Zoo in Spokane Valley on a partial sheet of ice. They next settled at Planet Ice in Spokane Valley, but that facility closed in 2006.

They last played at the Riverfront Park ice rink, but that too went away amidst major renovations there. The group plans to make Cheney their long-time home.

Pure Hockey and Liberty Mutual Insurance are official sponsors of Try Hockey For Free Days.

For further information on Try Hockey For Free day visit or email

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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