The Los Angeles Selects Hockey Peewee AAA team won the World Championship Tournament Feb. 19 in Quebec City, Canada. In the 53-year history of the tournament, the accomplishment marks the first time a California team has won the event at the highest level of competition, and one Summerlin youth was a vital part of that winning team.
He is Rhett Bruckner, 13, who plays goalie.
"The goalie position is the toughest in hockey, where you can either be the hero or the goat," said Rhett's father, Jeff Bruckner. "When the other team scores a goal, everyone blames the goalie."
Every weekend, Rhett travels to the Glacial Gardens Ice Arena in Lakewood, Calif., to practice. He has been skating since he was 3½ and playing hockey since he was 6. He has always played the goalie position.
Part of the Quebec City games, which were attended by 10,000 spectators, included the billet system. It requires the visiting teams to stay with local families.
"They spoke a lot of French ... I only know, like, merci beaucoup," Rhett said.
But he called it an awesome experience, mostly because the Gauvin family had its own pristine ice rink in the backyard. When the father noticed Rhett out there early in the morning, smoothing out chips in the surface, he gave him a treat: a ride on the family's Zamboni. No other youngster had been honored that way, not even his son, William, who is one year younger.
"He made me promise not to tell his son," Rhett said.
Rhett said he doesn't feel any pressure when defending the net, as he's too focused on the puck. Not even the sudden death of his yellow Labrador, Tinkerbell, in mid-February took away his concentration.
Apparently, it didn't affect his grades, either. Rhett is home-schooled and an honor roll student with A BEKA Academy.
As a goalie, Rhett is covered with padding, but there are exposed areas. He has endured plenty of black and blue marks. His facemask protects him, but when he dives to cover a puck, he's at risk for a face full of slush from the onrush of players.
"It doesn't hurt; it's just an annoyance," Rhett said.
In Las Vegas, he practices at the SoBe Ice Arena at the Fiesta Rancho, 2400 N. Rancho Drive. Rhett and his father travel to Los Angeles every Friday. The Bruckners keep an RV in Southern California just for their hockey needs.
Rhett said he wants to go pro and would like to play for the San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks "or somewhere where it's warm."
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 387-2949.