RIPON – All it took Daniel Costa to get hooked on hockey was one game.
After that he threw his baseball gear away, stuffed the golf clubs into the closet and dedicated himself to the fast-paced, rough-and-tumble game that credits its fans as some of the most faithfully devoted in all of sports.
So it only seemed logical that he pursue it as a career.
For the last three years Costa has been operating the Ripon Powerplay Sports Arena and has watched the business itself slowly grow as word spread throughout the community that the game and the leagues offered are the real deal.
A true hockey fan wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Hockey is seriously an addiction,” Costa said. “I remember that I didn’t want to play at first, but after that first game that was it. I was hooked, and the rest has kind of been history. I think I was six years old at the time.”
Currently Costa and General Manager Cameron Dinnell are gearing up for the summer leagues to begin on July 25th – enjoying the brief respite that they get three times every year before a new season starts up and the rink is constantly full of players, parents and curious onlookers.
By the end of the month in-line hockey players of all ages and skill levels will begin their 10-week season with hopes of making a run at the playoffs and picking up bragging rights for the next time they step out of box and out onto into the smooth rink.
Serving as a regional draw, Costa says, has really helped establish Powerplay Sports as a serious hockey center and helped bring some of the best and brightest players from throughout the area.
“We get players from Modesto, Manteca, Stockton – pretty much all over the area that come down here to play in our leagues,” he said. “A lot of guys have been looking for a place around here to play for a while, so we’re glad that we could be that place for them to come.”
And then there’s the whole professional aspect of Powerplay’s mission.
After operating the business for the first year, Costa decided to purchase an American Inline Hockey League franchise he dubbed the Ripon Savage and started an AIHL minor league feeder program – the Ripon Red Tails. By reaching out to players from Sacramento, Fresno and the Bay Area – even netting some former Elite Ice Hockey League Players – he was able to show some of the younger players that there is a future for inline players that want to take it to the next level.
“I’m not good enough to play with these guys, so I did the next big thing – I bought the team,” Costa said with a laugh. “They’re the real deal out there, and anybody who has seen them play can tell that they’re professionals. What’s good about that is that it shows some of the kids that there’s a place that they can take their game in the future if they work at it.
“I think that’s a good message for some of these kids who really love hockey and maybe want to play it at the highest level one day.”
Ripon Powerplay Sports Arena is located at 1043 S. Acacia Street, and is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. when leagues are in session. For additional information, or to sign up for a skill or age-specific league, call 599-2479.