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Now and Then – ‘Release the Kraken(s)!’

| Community | February 14, 2019

In Icelandic legends, the Kraken is a squid-like sea monster dwelling off the coasts of Norway and Greenland. In the Hollywood movie “Clash of the Titans,” the Kraken is a menacing sea monster destroyed by the Greek hero, Perseus. In the Santa Clarita Valley, the Kraken is an underwater hockey player who works out with 15 teammates at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8. These Krakens compete locally and nationally in a sport that has had little national exposure. But if team member Glenn Terry has anything to say about it, underwater hockey is going to get more attention – first in the SCV, then nationwide.

Neither water nor hockey was on Terry’s radar growing up in the SCV. Baseball was always his passion. From T-ball to being a star pitcher for Saugus High School coach Doug Worley in the late 1980s, Glenn was sure that a big league career was in his future, until a back injury ended those hopes.

Following his back injury, Glenn switched from baseball to business, first working his way up to a managerial position in the restaurant industry. “The pace was non stop, but being on my feet all day was hard on my back, so I began looking for some other pursuit,” said Terry. “A friend in the insurance industry encouraged me to consider that vocation as an alternate career– one that would require a whole new set of skills, including a proficiency in sales.”

“I thought back to my years with Coach Worley, who not only taught character building on the baseball field, but life skills and thinking outside the box in his high school strategies class. I put all those lessons to good use as I built my own insurance business.”

It was through his insurance dealings that he met underwater hockey enthusiast Weston Monroe. Weston sized up the 6-foot 5-inch Terry and decided he would be perfect for the sport. Glenn was not so sure, but after years of Monroe‘s hounding, Terry finally agreed to meet his friend at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center to observe a few practices.

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Glenn watched as members of the Kraken underwater hockey team slipped flippers on their feet, adjusted their facemasks, grabbed 12-inch hockey sticks, and jumped into the water. A puck was placed in the middle of the 25-meter pool. The swimmers took their places in front of their defending goals, which had been secured at each end of the pool. When a whistle was blown, a referee monitored play as the competitors swam to the puck, took deep breaths, and dove beneath the surface of the water.

As in ice hockey, the scramble to control the puck continued until a goal was scored. Glenn learned that a team is generally comprised of ten players with six players in the pool at any one time. Four players are in a “sub box,” and they are substituted in as needed during the game’s two halves, which are typically 10 to 15 minutes long.

“It looked like a lot of fun. I hadn’t done much swimming beyond learning the basic strokes as a kid, but I knew I could stay on top of the water. However, swimming isn’t as important as breath control, getting to the bottom of the pool, and staying there. Developing lung capacity and endurance is key. I decided all I really needed was some serious conditioning if I wanted to be competitive in the sport. So I started swimming laps to develop endurance and read some Bruce Lee books on the art of combining grace with aggression,” said Terry.

Though it is virtually unknown to most of the globe’s population, underwater hockey is played worldwide. The first Underwater Hockey World Championship was held in Canada in 1980. It began in England in 1954 when open-water diver Alan Blake invented the game to keep his team members active during the cold winter months. He called his creation “Octopush” because the game was first played by eight (octo) players using sticks that were designed to push the puck across the bottom of the pool. Today’s sticks are beveled so the puck can also be flicked in the water reaching distances up to 5 or 6 feet.

From England the sport spread to South Africa, then to Canada in 1962, Australia in 1966, and Asia in the late 70s. In 1981, a women’s division was added followed by a junior division in 1990. Scuba diving enthusiasts were responsible for helping it to spread across the globe. Sixty-eight teams from 19 countries competed in the 2013 World Championship held in Hungary.

It was into this world that Glenn Terry entered six years ago working weekly practices into a schedule of insurance sales, community outreach projects, and the activities of 16-year-old son Brandon and 11 year-old daughter Kyla.

But the sport has become more than a recreational and conditioning outlet for Glenn, he has a goal to increase its visibility in the Santa Clarita Valley, spreading its competitive and strength building benefits to residents of all ages. “It’s low impact and a great cardio vascular exercise that uses lots of muscles,” explained Terry, “it’s a great health benefit and I’d like to see it spread to youngsters as well as adults.”

Reaching that goal started last year in meetings with the city’s Parks and Recreation officials. As the Kraken’s marketing administrator, Glenn gave a brief presentation to the committee which outlined the financial benefits from the tournaments that the club has sponsored annually at the aquatics center. Drawing teams from all over the state, Terry pointed out the economic advantages to the city. (The November 2018 tournament involved over 200 players, who not only rented 35 rooms at two different hotels, but patronized the local restaurants and businesses, as well).

Eventually, California players and supporters would like to bring the world championships to the L.A. area and Terry wants to go one step further and have them held at the SC Aquatics Center. That will require many negotiations in the future with representatives from the Underwater Hockey Commission as well as the city.

But for now, Terry is concentrating on growing the local tournaments and creating a youth program. Glenn’s plan includes a summer camp at the Aquatics Center for local boys and girls 12 to 16. “I see underwater hockey as a huge benefit for kids, said Terry, “it helps develop strong physical and mental skills.”

Meetings will continue as Terry and city officials work together to make the summer youth program a reality. Those interested in learning more about the adult underwater hockey program and the summer camp for youngsters, may contact Glenn at 661-312-7268 or by email: megabuilder7@gmail.com

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About Linda Pedersen

Linda Pedersen is a 50-year resident of the Santa Clarita Valley. She has alternated being a columnist and feature writer with volunteering in the community.

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