Their family was watching hockey on television one day and that’s all it took to hook Isabelle and Benjamin Humpal-Pash on the sport. Not long after they saw it on TV, they both joined the Ames Minor Hockey Association (AMHA) and started learning all about skating and hockey.


Isabelle, a sophomore at Nevada High School, and Benjamin, an eighth-grader at Nevada Middle School, love the thrill of playing hockey.


“I’ve always been an aggressive child, and a lot of sports seem boring and slow-paced,” Isabelle said, “but the movement, the energy (of hockey), it was fun for me to watch. I liked the fast pace.”


She plays soccer for the same reasons. “I like sports with constant movement.”


Benjamin likes “the thrill of skating on the ice, strategizing, planning where he needs to be and getting the puck,” he said.


Skating was one of the key things Isabelle talks about needing to learn to play the game. She had only skated for fun once or twice before joining the AMHA. “I remember struggling on how to stop,” she said. Her best way was just to run into a wall. “Then one day (the position her feet needed to be in to stop) “just clicked.”


Now that she’s skating well, Isabelle, who is now a member of the junior varsity Little Cyclones team, said she’s focused on improving the finer parts of the game, like accuracy and power. “Learning to aim takes time.” So does backward movement in skates, so you can get back on defense for a play. “I mastered it (backward skating), but there’s always more room for improvement. But I’m a lot better than when I started,” she said.


Learning to skate was the biggest challenge for Benjamin as he started hockey. Now, with that mastered, he said, “learning where and when I need to be on the ice to get a breakout and get the puck toward the goal,” are things he’s trying to improve on. Right now, Benjamin plays for the Bantam level in the AMHA. Next year, as a freshman, he’ll join the high school Little Cyclones group, and Isabelle is excited for that.


“It’s going to be fun to watch him play more (since their games will be more at the same places and times). He’s a big guy already, and it will be fun to put him out there and watch him check. Big kids can check really hard,” Isabelle said about the defensive technique in hockey of trying to separate the opponent from possession of the puck.


Hockey is a big sport during the winter season for the kids in the AMHA. They start practices during the fall and have games every week once the regular season starts, Isabelle said. A lot of games are on weekends, but there are some played during the week, and that will continue until state competition, which is in early March, she said.


Most of the kids in the AMHA are from Ames, but there are a lot of kids from a variety of schools around the area, Isabelle said. “When I first joined the high school team, I didn’t know a lot of them, so I stuck by a girl my age who knew everyone,” as a way to get acquainted. She finds that getting to know other hockey players is fun. “We all have the same sort of humor; we act ridiculous sometimes, because we’re high schoolers, but it’s really fun.”


Isabelle said she is “a winger” on the hockey team, which means she’s a forward and plays the wing. And while she said that hockey has many similarities to soccer, her position in hockey is much different than her position as goalie in soccer. “I like both sports (and positions) for different reasons,” she said. “I can’t pick a favorite.”


Ben, who is also active in cross country and track, said hockey is a great sport for exercise. “It also makes you use your brain and think, when do I need to move, where should I pass, how should I bounce it off the boards…(hockey) uses your knowledge, which is a key part of anything,” he said.


Ben isn’t sure for how long he’ll play hockey; Isabelle plans to play through high school, and then hopes in the future she can be involved in some pickup games.


Hockey isn’t a cheap sport to get into. Isabelle said among the things you need are skates, knee pads, protective gear, breezers (padded pants), your stick, chest and shoulder pads, elbow pads and a helmet. She and her brother’s parents have purchased what they need to make this experience possible for them.


And they’re grateful. They’re both able to share the most exciting part of playing.


For Ben, a great moment on the ice would be “checking the other team to get the puck and passing it up the ice — that aggressiveness is exciting and builds a desire to play harder.”


For Isabelle, who has had the opportunity to score a goal, which is where some may think the glory is, she said scoring a goal “wasn’t groundbreaking” for her and isn’t what she considers the most exciting thing about playing. “A big moment for me was having an assist. It was giant for me, because the play was perfectly set up and perfectly executed.” When a play like that comes together and a point is scored, she said, it shows one of the greatest things about hockey and many sports, that “you can’t play without everyone working together, as a team.”


Isabelle also said it’s nice that the AMHA is big on sportsmanship. Even though the coaches and players take the sport seriously, and things can get heated at times, the coaches always step in and make sure things don’t get out of hand. “We’re a pretty good team for sportsmanship,” she said.


The other very important thing for Isabelle about playing soccer with the Little Cyclones high school team is that it’s like being part of a big family. They do lots of community service projects, too. “Instead of being all friends; we’re all family on this team.”