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Looking to bring a hockey team to East Meadow

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An East Meadow hockey team may be in the pipeline for sixth to twelfth-grade students.

The founder is Thomas Columbia, an NHL off-ice official and East Meadow father with 23 years of refereeing and 9 years of coaching under his belt.

“I wanted to start the program because I was sick of seeing my kids play for other towns,” he said, explaining that East Meadow once had its own team, but interest dwindled and it stopped running. Now, local athletes must play for a neighboring team like Plainview, where Columbia is an assistant coach for his 10th-grade son Matthew’s Junior Varsity team.

Columbia has coached the Nassau County recreational league for 7 years before Matthew aged out. In addition to assistant coaching for Great Neck, he has also been coaching the Bethpage Spitfires spring travel team.

Through his work with the NHL, Columbia either acts as a goal judge or monitors games from the penalty box, mostly working at Nassau Coliseum.

Columbia said that he was first worried that starting a new team would be too overwhelming and expensive of an undertaking to draw enough interest. However, roughly 30 athletes showed interest at a Jan. 31 informational meeting at the East Meadow Public Library.

“Parents seem ecstatic, they’ve been enthusiastic about it all over Facebook,” he said. The team will be all volunteer based and Columbia said he has already garnered support from other parents interested in coaching.

The team will be separated into middle school, Junior Varsity and Varsity divisions, but will not be affiliated with the East Meadow School District. Columbia also stressed that it is co-ed and girls will be playing on the same team with boys.

If there are not enough interested players by the fall season, when the team will officially launch, then it will merge with a neighboring team like Levittown/Hicksville.

This spring, Columbia intends on hosting a clinic for all interested players. For more information, e-mail emhockey1@gmail.com.