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Local youth hockey players get a shot at playing with a pro

By ANNA MEILER

WHITESTOWN, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Not many nine year olds can say their hockey coach was an NHL star, but local kids are getting a shot at just that.

These young aspiring athletes walked into the Whitestown Ice Arena Monday evening, toting hockey bags as big as their dreams.

"I really want to play in the NHL. I really like Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane. I want to be like those guys," said Jacob Roberts, a 9-year-old from Marcy trying out for the Utica Jr. Comets Squirt Team.

And like former Philadelphia Flyer Rob Esche. He has eight NHL seasons under his belt, but before that he was sharpening his skates and his skills right here at the Whitestown Ice Arena.

"I've lived a lifetime on the ice. That's all I've done is live on the ice. I like to think I got a good understanding of the game with everything I've been through. So all I want to do is pass that on to them," said Esche.

Esche is teaching on the same surface where he learned the sport and showing these kids anyone can skate their way to the pros if you put in the hard work.

"I've never met a coach that's more passionate about coaching than he is about this team. He is so excited to do it," said Janice Martino, whose son is trying out for a spot on the team.

It's a chance these aspiring athletes don't want to miss out on.

"My goal is to try to make the team, not fool around and give a good impression, said Roberts.

As these kids try to skate towards bigger things, for Esche, it's all about giving back.

"For me, I'm just doing it at a youth level which is just simply trying to enhance the kids and I think a lot of pro athletes should get into coaching and help with what people helped them achieve," said Esche.

Two other staff members from the Utica Comets will also be coaching the youth teams. The Utica Junior Comets Squirt Team tryouts will be held through Thursday this week. There are tryouts for other age groups as well and you can find that information here: http://uticajrcomets.com/tryouts/

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