ELLENTON — Sixteen-year-old Brett Wessel grew up playing outside in cold weather, but it wasn’t until he and his family moved to the Sunshine State that Wessel got his first taste of hockey.
Wessel occasionally hit the ice in his hometown of Chicago, but the thought of playing ice hockey never crossed the former baseball player’s mind.
That was until two years ago when Wessel began attending public skates at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex. It was there that Wessel made the decision to trade in his glove for a hockey stick.
“It was fun,” Wessel says. “Hockey’s a lot faster than baseball. It’s less boring.
“It was different at first,” Wessel says of learning how to skate. “It’s just one of those things that you don’t do very often, but I ended up loving it.”
Wessel joined the Gulf Coast Flames, for which he plays left wing for the U16 team. He also attends the rink’s Hockey Academy, where he spends at least three-and-a-half hours per day training, in addition to taking online courses.
As Wessel hit the ice for the first time, his two younger brothers, Cade, 12, and Luke, 9, quickly gravitated to the sport. The two brothers watched their older brother excel on the ice, and it wasn’t long before Cade and Luke laced up their skates for the first time, too.
A former football player, Cade soon found he had a knack for playing defense.
“I would like to be the first defender to score on our team,” says Cade, who plays on the Gulf Coast Flames Pee Wee team. “I like playing aggressive and not letting people get behind me.
“I just have to try not to worry if the puck gets behind me,” Cade says. “The toughest part about (playing defense) is probably just the mental aspect. I don’t like when people get around me and when people score when I’m on the ice.”
Like his older brother, Cade spends nearly every day training — on and off the ice. Cade hits the ice every day after school and also puts in two additional days of off-ice training.
Following in his older brothers’ footsteps, Luke saw how much fun they were having on the ice and decided to give the sport a try. Luke joined the Gulf Coast Flames Squirt team last year, and the defender hasn’t stopped playing since.
“I like playing defense, because you get the puck and you get to stay on the ice longer,” Luke says.
Although the three brothers enjoy practicing together, they admit they don’t get to watch each other play quite as often as they would like.
“Sometimes it’s hard because we’re all everywhere at once,” Cade says. “We have games at the same time, so we don’t always get to watch each other play.”
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