Niles West Mammoth Hockey Players Celebrate Their Last Year Together

By Sophia Lannoye, Staff Writer

As the hockey season is coming to an end, seniors on the Mammoth U18 Hockey team are celebrating their last year playing hockey together. Niles West and its feeder schools do not offer hockey programs, but some Niles West students have been committed to playing for this organization.

“It’d be nice if Niles West had a team. I’d like to play for West but it’s not very realistic with the amount of hockey players we have there,” center and West senior Max Schwartz said. 

The West players have the best bond on the team, but overall everyone on the team is connected.

“I definitely think that the west players have more chemistry together, but overall we’ve all been playing with each other for a really long time, so I think we’re all pretty comfortable with each other,” defenseman and West senior Dino Panoutsos said.

While this team is based at the Skatium Ice Arena in Skokie and has a location in Evanston, players come from all around Cook County, including Chicago, Morton Grove, Park Ridge, Lincolnwood, Wilmette, Mount Prospect, Niles, and more to play hockey there.

Mammoth Hockey was created from the merging of the Skokie Amateur Hockey Association (Flyers) and the Evanston Youth Hockey Association (Wildkits). The team also recently went through a re-branding from the Flyers to the Mammoths as a result of the merge. The re-branding included not only a name change, but a change in the hockey director, coaching, uniforms, and numbers.

The new name isn’t a problem, but has created a readjustment for the team.

It was kinda weird because we’ve all been flyers our whole lives and it’s just something different, something to get used to,” Panoutsos said.

On Dec. 18, the Mammoths had a holiday game against the Vipers. The Mammoths lost 1-2, but put they in a solid effort.

“It could’ve gone better. I mean obviously, we lost, so a lot of stuff we could improve on. But overall, I think it was a good effort on our team, a lot better than our last time playing this team, so just gotta improve next time we play,” Panoutsos said. 

Multiple fights broke out during the game and some of the Mammoth players had passionate experiences with instigating these fights that are so prone to happening during intense hockey games.

“I love ‘em [fights], I love startin ‘em, I love gettin in ‘em, I love makin’ sure we win ‘em. That puts hockey at top,” left winger and West senior Allan Stegich said. 

Fans always look forward to listening to the playlist made by Stegich’s dad before every game and after whistle blows.

“The music is fantastic. I’ve never heard better music. The playlist gets me fired up every day. I’m shootin’ rockets at the net every day, so it’s goin’ well,” Stegich said. 

The seniors on the team are nearing the end of their season and are feeling sad to say goodbye to their team.

“It’s sad I guess. It’s like the last year playing youth hockey, but everything’s gonna come to an end. I’m not gonna go out of my way to go to a real small school to play hockey, but I’ll see what there is,” left winger and West senior Jack Wendell said.  

Even though Niles West does not have its own hockey team, students have found a way to pursue what they love.