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Duo brings dek hockey facility to South Hills

A business venture that was 20 years in the making is finally coming to fruition in the South Hills.

When Al Ernst and Joe Smith were in their early 20s, they envisioned taking advantage of the local hockey boom and building a facility of their own. But financial hiccups and property setbacks stifled their progress.

"Hockey is so huge since (Mario) Lemieux came out in '84; it just keeps growing," said Ernst, the CEO of South Hills Dek Hockey. "We needed a rink in the South Hills. Everybody leaves here and goes and plays in other places.

"We found a piece of land and the money was right. Now, here we are."

South Hills Dek Hockey opens its doors this weekend as it hosts a grand opening with league registration on Worthington Avenue in Jefferson Hills.

"We just want to give kids a place to go and learn teamwork in the great sport of hockey," said Smith, president. "We want to get more kids involved. Hockey is such a great sport. Al and I are both very capable of teaching them how to play."

The facility houses one regulation-size dek with a top-of-the-line surface and a state-of-the-art Fiberglass board system around the rink. There will be a pro shop and plenty of parking. Ernst said the long-term goals are to continue to expand.

"We'd like to get a sizable count of teams to explore all eight different age groups, and we want to get a full league so people can compete," Ernst said. "Within the next year to year-and-a-half, we want to build a second dek on the property.

"With that though, it would be a smaller dek than the normal size. We'd like to promote more young kids coming in and playing."

In order to participate, all players must wear shin pads, gloves and elbow pads, and children ages 15 and under must wear a helmet with a cage or shield.

The organization is having an introductory five-game season with a single-elimination playoff format to give people a sample of how the facility will be run. The cost is $40 per player.

One of Ernst's long-term goals is to hold clinics and developmental sessions for younger players who are just getting involved in the sport.

"I coach ice hockey with the SHAHA organization out in Bethel Park, so I'll probably start some developmental sessions for little kids through SHAHA and USA Hockey," Ernst said. "I have Level 3 certification, so people will know they have someone with experience to develop that into the skills. "

For more information regarding this weekend's event, visit www.southhillsdekhockey.com .

Additional Information:

If you go

South Hills Dek Hockey registration will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 412-405-9579, or email info@southhillsdekhockey.com .

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