The deciding moment in eight-year-old Luca Petroni’s youth hockey career wasn’t uncovered by high-level inline tournaments or even during a Junior Olympic tryout in San Jose this summer.
It came in 2009, when the five-year-old was bundled up like a member of a SWAT team and sent onto the rink to join a rag-tag collection of 11-and-under players at the Power Play Sports Arena in Ripon.
“When he was five Ripon didn’t have an eight-and-under team, but they did have one that was 11-and-under,” Luca’s mother, Wendy Petroni said. “We padded him up and sent him out there and he learned to skate.
“He had to, to survive.”
Three years later, inline hockey has taken the Oakdale resident and incoming Fair Oaks third grader to all corners of California’s inline world. He was selected to compete in the Junior Olympics on June 28, 29 and 30 in Huntington Beach, tackles the North American Roller Hockey Championships in July (San Jose) and even was selected to join Team Northern California for a trip to Missouri in August.
“It’s good because you see all these places where hockey is played,” Luca said on Saturday. “It’s fun to travel with these teams.”
The schedule of events only adds to an already hectic schedule of Luca’s practices and games. He practices on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, plays his Ripon recreation games on Fridays and spends most of his free time on foot-wheels.
“It’s chaos,” Wendy Petroni admitted. “Even when he’s not playing or practicing, he is skating by himself, so it’s all hockey all the time.”
Wendy said Luca’s true passion for the sport was revealed after he watched his brother, Joey Petroni, tackle the sport into his late teens. After Luca found he could hold his own against larger and older players, there was no stopping him.
The savvy skater can play from anywhere on the rink. He plays a low pressure defensive position to help his rec league team and hustles to the front of action as a forward for his travel teams and Junior Olympic/Team Northern California appearances. It’s his performances as a forward that earned him a spot with both elite programs and the successful Ripon Junior Savage team that qualified for the North American Roller Hockey Championships.
“The Ripon place is fun because it’s a big rink and there is a lot of games every day,” Luca said. “The Junior Savage team is fun because I have a lot of friends on the team.”
Luca’s talents aren’t limited to the rink. He tackled the S.0.S. 1600 meter run this summer and completed the course in just over eight minutes, despite chatting the whole way.
“He was able to do that because of the stamina he has built up playing hockey,” Wendy said. “He’s played four games in one day and been on the floor the whole time. He has the stamina to just skate and keep going, and I think that’s why he really likes it.”