Three flags fly in a brisk fall breeze at the Hallsville Community Park — an American flag, a Missouri State flag and a Canadian flag.
Below them, 15-year-old Melissa McGhee and the rest of her teammates sit on the corner of a concrete hockey rink, just out of reach of players whizzing by on in-line skates. She straps on her shin pads and pulls her jersey over her head.
The bleachers are full of fans, play-by-play is booming through loud speakers, and the hot dogs are selling like hot cakes at the concession stand. Referee John Briggs blows his whistle, signaling the opening face-off of the 4 p.m. matchup between MFA Agri-Services and Guaranty Land Title. The puck drops, and moments later Melissa scores the first goal of the game.
She is one of the more skilled players on MFA, and fans expect big plays from her. They’ve been watching McGhee’s play in the Twisters Hockey League since it began in 1998.
Melissa’s brother, Kevin McGhee, is a legend in Hallsville. In fact, the Twisters’ championship trophy is named after him.
It was Kevin, John Briggs and six or so other friends who started playing hockey in Hallsville’s streets nine years ago. Back then, players used homemade goals and toured the town searching for newly paved streets.
Melissa remembers those days. She started playing with her older brother and his friends when she was 8 years old. ‘They wouldn’t go easy on you just ‘cause you were young,’ she said.
Melissa and her friends also designed the first Kevin McGhee Cup in 1998. It was crafted from a cake box, a vase, aluminum foil and a Styrofoam bowl.
Today’s cup has past champions etched into its base and is topped with a metallic bowl. Melissa’s name appears on the trophy along with her other brother, David, both of whom won it all the inaugural season.
The league has evolved into 14 teams, nearly 200 kids, a four month season and games at rinks in Jefferson City, Moberly and Hallsville. Players from ages 6 to 18 compete in two divisions. And the league is looking to expand. They have had senior divisions in past years and have also considered a women’s division.
With help from donations, the Twisters built a $30,000 rink in 2000 and began playing on it in 2001. Today, it is complete with a scoreboard, lights and netting surrounding the playing surface.
It’s a rink where Melissa has scored many goals during her career and will probably be the setting for a few more before this season is over. She can only hope it’s enough to help her team bring home the Kevin McGhee Cup in 2003.
Her brother would be proud.