SIOUX CITY | On a recent Wednesday night at the IBP Ice Center, about a dozen wives, girlfriends, children and assorted others watched as team Coca-Cola did battle with team Trattoria Fresco.
Wait, what? Were there legions of soft-drink supporters fighting a faction of Italian restaurant fans at a Sioux City ice rink?
No, of course not. Coca-Cola and Trattoria Fresco are teams in the Intermediate League of the Sioux City Adult Hockey League.
Wesley Orr, the commissioner of the league, said the league has room for all ages and skill levels -- beginners, intermediate and advanced players.
"Anybody 18 years of age or older, (who wants to play) recreational hockey, at a competitive level" is welcome to take part, Orr said.
And don't worry about getting hurt by an overly aggressive player -- it's a no-checking league. So there shouldn't be any broken teeth or internal bleeding after a game.
There are actually two separate leagues within Sioux City Adult Hockey: a beginner/intermediate league of four teams and up to 60 players, and an "open" league, also composed of four teams and up to 60 players.
The beginner/intermediate league is designed for players of varied, but perhaps more laid-back, skill level. The age of the players on these teams vary, with some in their 40s and 50s.
There was even a 73-year-old player in the Intermediate League a few seasons back.
"It's a slower-paced game," Orr said.
Players whose skill level is quite a bit above the Intermediate League don't play in those teams. Instead, they are referred to the open or "A" league.
That league is, in a word, intense.
"The A league would be more of a faster pace, you know, guys know where to be, how to play the game," he said.
All teams are named for sponsors, such as JT's Pub and Pioneer Auto, as well as the aforementioned Coca-Cola and Trattoria Fresco.
Brent Foxworthy is a first-year forward and center with the Coca-Cola team. He had glowing words for the hockey club.
"Oh, I love it," Foxworthy said. "It's a really good group of guys, they're all really welcoming and they don't have any drama. It's good physical activity and the sport is just fun."
Foxworthy said he got involved partly at the behest of his brother-in-law -- who happens to be Wesley Orr.
"They'd been talking to me, wanting me to start playing, and you know, saying how much I'd love it. Because I've always been a hockey fan but never really got into playing," he said. "And they talked me into it and I decided to play. And I regret not playing before."
But when he joined the league, Foxworthy was no Wayne Gretzky.
"I could barely skate," he said.
But his teammates provided the guidance he needed.
"Everybody tells me how far I've come," he said.
Perhaps most important, Foxworthy said a whole new social circle opens for players when they join.
"I've created awesome relationships just playing hockey, and that'll probably last forever," he said. "After the games, a lot of the time we'll go to the bar, have a beer and whatnot."
Kyle Lierman has been the captain of the JT's Pub team in the A league for the last four or five years. He normally plays as a center -- but of course positions on the teams aren't all set in stone.
"I guess it just of depends, too -- just whatever you want to play, and feel comfortable playing," he said.
When Lierman first joined the league, he said the competition wasn't too fierce.
"It was more laid-back, I guess. It wasn't as competitive," he said.
But as the years went on, the league's players became increasingly skilled.
"It's just a lot more competitive now," he said. "It seems to be a little more fast-paced as well."
Lierman has been playing hockey since he was 10 years old. He played for the Metros in high school, and played when he was in the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
It didn't take much convincing to get Lierman to join the league.
"When I got back from Lincoln, I didn't want to quit playing, so this was really the only option around here, was the adult league," he said. "So I just signed up and ever since then, I haven't stopped playing."