That’s the goal

Junior Colby Mang welcomes the challenge of playing hockey in Florida.


photo by Colby Mang

Junior Colby Mang, despite being a main offensive component to his team, Mang also guards the defense. Mang is inspired and motivated by his favorite player, Brayden Point from Tampa Bay Lightning.

After permeating the air with the smell of spray-on sunscreen and guzzling cases of water and Gatorade,Florida athletes get used to temperatures reaching the ninetys and the sun out in full force. Football players jogging across the field, swimmers with sunburns raging across their cheeks and surfers with remnants of sand and the ocean still clinging on to their body, all thrive in the Floridian weather, which seems like summer every day.

Junior Colby Mang, however, prefers the cold and the frigid temperatures of an indoor skating rink. Though he has always lived in Florida, Mang developed a preference for winter sports over summer due to his dislike of the heat.

“I feel like summer sports are too hot for me. I do not like to sweat a lot and be in the sun,” Mang said.

Mang was introduced to hockey at age five; his father, Mike Mang, had lived in Pittsburgh and played hockey as well, hoping to eventually teach his children. Growing up, Mike played hockey recreationally, but never got the chance to pursue it professionally as his family was unable to afford it.

Hockey can be a financially draining sport due to the combined price of training, gear and transportation. ESPN Senior Writer Steve Wulf recalls spending around $50,000 yearly on his daughter to play youth hockey. Mike also acknowledges this aspect, especially as it is difficult to find resources and training in Florida.

“Hockey is an expensive sport. Florida ice time is costly, so registering for local leagues and travel teams is expensive, not to mention the gas, airplane, and hotel costs to travel around Florida and beyond,” Mike said.

Along with elevated costs, finding reputable coaches and organizations can be a struggle in Florida, with the extremely limited selection. Mang’s coach, Scott Zerkle at DME Hockey, has taught Mang for around six years, meeting him at various hockey summer camps. Zerkly acknowledges Mang as an asset to his team, the DME Swamp Rabbits.

“Colby has worked really hard to get where he is today. His skating and stickhandling are at top notch. Colby has an awesome shot [hitting the puck] as well,” Zerkle said.

Basic skills such as knowing how to skate and maneuver on the ice, while also being adept with a hockey stick are crucial for success. This did not faze Mang when he began playing the sport; the speed and physicality of the game excited him. 

“You have to learn to skate forwards and backwards and how to switch between the two. Since I learned at such a young age, it was more natural,” Mang said. “I feel like it was something I was born into.”

 Mang is a forward on his team; he plays left and right wing on the ice, with the main priority of scoring goals. He plays both in-state hockey as well as travel hockey. One of Mang’s favorite memories was scoring a game-winning goal that allowed his team to qualify for a state championship, where they eventually placed second.

Winning games and being successful on the ice means that time must be devoted to honing in skill and practicing over and over, which can be difficult to balance with school and social life.

Mang practices at least twice a week, getting home around midnight on some school nights. Mang’s hockey rink is located in Daytona, an hourlong commute. He often does not get to interact with friends outside of school because of his far away games that require immense practice, yet on a regular basis, connecting with teammates can be challenging as they live closer to the ice rink than Mang.

However, Mang has developed ways to work around his busy schedule. He spends the night before games with his teammates outside of the ice rink, allowing for more bonding. Mang also makes sure to maintain his grades over everything.

“School is a top priority for me and my parents. It always comes first, so if I have a big test or a lot of homework due the next day, I might not go to the weight training part of the practice and only go to the on-ice part, so I have time to do my schoolwork,” Mang said. “ I try to get most of my school work done on days I do not have hockey.”

Driven by his love for the sport, Mang hopes to play hockey in college, eventually reaching professional level, so quitting is not an option for Mang. Knowing the work involved, Mang cites “working out, practicing as much as I can and a good diet,” as his plan to achieve that goal.

“I have been playing since I was 5-6 years old; I do not know what it is like to not have practices twice a week. I would be so bored and not know what to do with the extra time,” Mang said. “ I wish the rink was closer so I could get more sleep, but I would rather get home really late than not play hockey at all.”