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Local hockey kid breaks local record

Julie Imada-Howard/Special to the Daily
Special to the DailyDerek Byron, a member of the Vail International Hockey Association, recently skated non-stop for two hours, logging 469 laps at the Dobson Ice Arena in an effort to raise money for the association's upcoming trip to Eastern Europe.
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Derek Byron, 15, of Eagle just put an “ouch” in local hockey history.

Byron, a member of the Vail International Hockey Association, recently skated non-stop for two hours, logging 469 laps at the Dobson Ice Arena in an effort to raise money for the association’s upcoming trip to Eastern Europe. Bryon set a new record for the event, escaped without blisters and managed to raise over $3,000 for the trip.

Fellow teammates and downvalley residents Jake Brock, Cody Fackler, Jordon Meikle, Garrett Schmidt, Josh Wright and Jordon VanVoorst also logged some serious laps. Brock skated 450 laps, Meikle had 444 – only one more than Wright skated – followed by VanVoorst, Fackler and Schmidt.

A forward who has been playing hockey for 13 years, Bryon also plays on the Vail Junior Hockey Midget league and for Battle Mountain High School.

The young player with National Hockey League dreams is looking forward to seeing the churches and the art in Russia. He also said there is a serious side of the trip as well. The team will tour the World War II concentration camp Auschwitz in Poland and learn first-hand about the horrors of the Holocaust. The trip is scheduled for Dec. 14 through Jan. 1.

“I think it will help me in life,” said Byron.

The members of the association and Vail businessman Merv Lapin have been taking hockey trips to Eastern Europe for over 20 years. Players will have the opportunity to play “friendship games” with European hockey clubs, as well as tour historic sites in St. Petersburg, Russia; Litovsky Mikulas, Slovakia; Prague, Czech Republic; and Krakow and Auschwitz, Poland. The kids will also have a home stay with Slovakian families for Christmas.

“It’s really a cool thing. It’s like a mini Olympic team,” said Wright’s mother, Bethe.

Hockey fathers Bill Wright and Jeff Byron will be among the chaperones for the trip and, like their sons, are excited about the adventure and the unique learning opportunities they will experience.

The boys have been advised to expect a special holiday treat from their home-stay families in Slovakia. According to Byron, the families in Slovakia often raise carp in their bathtubs over the winter and serve them for Christmas dinner.

Lapin credits the travel experience with helping many former players get into better colleges. Many write their college application essays about the trip, he said.

Lapin encourages members of the team to raise their own funds, instead of relying on mom and dad. To raise the $2,800 to $3,000 needed for the trip, team members hold events such as the recent skate-a-thon, work through the “Hire A Hockey Player” program during the summer and work at various special events throughout the valley. The kids are also required to write a research paper about one of the destinations on the itinerary.

“They did a tremendous job in their efforts,” said Lapin of this year’s team. He also gave credit to the success of the program and this year’s fund-raising efforts to the communities and businesses of Eagle-Vail and Avon.

This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.


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