February Mailer Header


Once a Bear now a Bruin…

-          By John Harrington


When Brendan Pelikh was 7, he decided it was time to start playing hockey. Thinking it was going to be a breeze, from what he saw on TV with the L.A. Kings, he knew it would be no big deal. Those guys made it look so easy. And so effortless. So, he convinced his mom to take him to Valley Ice – splat! – he spent much of that session as a human Zamboni, cleaning every inch of the ice with every part of his body. When Brendan tried to wind up with a Kopitar inspired slap shot, he spun back, missed the puck, and landed on his keester, like Charlie Brown trying to kick a football. And it was there, in that moment of humility, a passion for the game was born!


Now a 6’4, 230-pound winger for UCLA, Brendan looks back to that day and is forever grateful to the sport that has given him so much. He fell many times at Valley Ice yet picked himself back up over and over again. But it was during some of the most darkness days later on in life that his hockey brotherhood rallied around him, and as a team, picked him back up. Together. As one.


Brendan’s life was humming along smoothly after playing Peewee and Bantam a few seasons with the Bears. As a Midget, he decided to stay in California and play for the Kings AA. Soon after, he was accepted to Groton, prep school in Boston, and earned a spot on their team with two other former Bears. He took his education seriously, and as a perfectionist, studied hard, and played hockey hard. Then his entire world was turned upside down when his father, followed his brother, were both diagnosed with cancer. His father had battled the disease years before, only to have it return. His younger brother, a hockey player as well, found himself in critical condition after a tumor burst in his neck. It was a tumor he did not know that he had. As the walls closed in on Brendan, he did not find himself alone. He had the support of his teammates and community who stood by him, on and off the ice.


Speaking with Brendan about his painful journey, he recounted this experience with grace and strength. He attributes his teammates unwavering dedication, loyalty, and friendship as the key to remaining strong for his father and brother. This is what hockey has given him, a foundation of lifelong relationships who will always be there for him, and in return, he will be there for them, anytime, anywhere, and anyplace. If he never convinced his parents to take him to the rink that day, he doesn’t really know where he would be now, or how he would’ve handled the devasting crisis within his family. We all know sports can give us so much that it can almost be cliché. But what a beautiful cliché it is. There is nothing quite like the hockey community, not only within our own club, but from our friends/opponents at other clubs who put all rivalry aside to protect one of their own. I have been around many sports and have spoken to new hockey families who left other sports behind, and agree, without reservation, there is something so unique and special about our game.


Brendan fought through those dark days and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Groton and is now a sophomore at UCLA. Inspired by his father and brother’s battle to survive, in and out of hospitals, Brendan is studying to become a doctor. He told me Groton was tough academically, but that hockey set him up for success with structure and time management (to name just a few positive habits learned around the rink). Now Brendan can be seen sending chills down the spine of defensemen with his hulking and athletic frame. He recently lost his excess pandemic/hibernation weight (nearly 70lbs!) and is having a stellar season. He needed to lose the pounds to get stronger and more efficient. And stronger he has become as he’s increased his presence on the scoresheet. UCLA has 25 players on the roster, with many of them former opponents from his youth hockey days in So Cal. His network of deep, meaningful relationships continues to grow. He is having the time of his life, studying, playing hockey, and hanging out with his friends and family. His father and brother, their cancers in remission, survived that brutal year. For a young man of 19, Brendan has lived more than many, and comes across as a man you can trust and depend on. His friends and teammates are lucky to have him in their corner, as he too is lucky to have them. At the end of our conversation, Brendan offered to speak with anyone who needs guidance or support with hockey or health. What a class act. Just the kind of teammate everybody needs. Let me know if you would like his contact info!


Why hockey? (TEN WORDS OR LESS)

Hockey has brought me my closest friends and fondest memories.


When and where did you start playing hockey? Who inspired you to play?

I started playing when I was 7 at the Valley Ice Center’s In-House Program. My dad, who is from the Soviet Union and took me to Kings games for as long as I can remember, is who inspired me.


Years at the Bears? Best Bear Memory?


Best Bear Memory was playing in Sweden during my U14 year. Although we didn’t win the tournament, I made long-lasting friendships and memories with teammates whom I keep in contact with today. A funny memory was when we went to a Pizza Hut that ran out of cheese.


Nickname among your hockey friends?

Big Russian


Which coach/mentor/role model stays with you, to this day, in the back of your mind? How did they elevate your game? Favorite quote/expression you remember? Or something they did?

Peter Torsson elevated my game by showing me the quirks of hockey no other coach has. He taught me how to shoot in stride, stick handle off my body, and greatly improved my physical conditioning. My favorite memory of him was him hosting our team at his parents’ cottage on a lake in Sweden.


How did you balance studying, commuting, practice, and lots of missed school days?

The way I balanced everything was by not procrastinating. Whenever I got homework assignments, I did them as soon as I could. Whenever I got in trouble with schoolwork, I was always honest with my teachers, who were understanding. My best advice is to stay on top of schools and make sure that important things are done before more fun things like video games are done.


Which exercise gives you the biggest advantage on the ice?

Plyometrics, such as jump squats and lunge squats with a medicine ball, gave me the biggest improvement in my game.


Where are you playing now and how did you get there?

I’m playing club hockey at UCLA. I got into UCLA from Groton, a prep school, where I graduated at the top of my class Summa Cum Laude.


Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully, I’ll be in residency on route to becoming a doctor. I’m not sure which specialty I want to pursue yet specifically.


Who would win in a hockey fight? Tyson Fury (on skates) vs. Tony Twist?

Who would win in a fight in the ocean? A lion or a shark? Tony Twist any day.


Best celebrity sighting?

I met Dustin Brown at Toyota Sports Center.


The longest drive you/parents made for a hockey game?

7 Hours to Phoenix, Arizona.


Favorite hockey slang that confuses your civilian friends?

I like to talk about long hair by calling it lettuce. It’s relevant to everyday life and confuses everyone!


You have a Bears Time Machine, you fly back to your first day of Mites, what advice would you give yourself?

I would tell myself not to overthink my mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes on the ice, even players like Crosby and Kane. Dwelling on mistakes will only negatively impact your next shift.


What is the funniest misconception you’ve experienced when trying to explain to hockey players outside of California…that yes, there is indeed hockey in California?

I always hear the classic question about how ice doesn’t melt.


Look at your phone, what is the very last song you listened to? Be honest! No reason or apology necessary. (we all have that one song).

You Broke My Heart - Drake


Any real-world experience, which made you think “Yes, that’s just like in hockey.”  What did you learn from your hockey life, which has helped you in the real world (school, job, friendships)?

There are a lot of times in hockey, whether it be on the forecheck or on the penalty kill, where you have to do your part and trust your teammates will do theirs. If you try to play someone else’s position, everyone fails. In high school, there was a final physics presentation where my group members and I agreed on our own roles right off the bat and trusted each other that we would complete our work as promised. Our project was great, and just like in hockey, we succeeded by doing our roles and trusting each other.


Let the CAHA games begin!


Our 2009, 2008 and 2007 AAA teams battle for the CAHA State Championship this weekend! And in even better news, our 2008 and 2007 play in Valencia at the Cube and our 2009 play at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo. So, no excuse not being able to make some games to show your support for these talented teams! Bring your best friend, and you can use the carpool lane and get there 5 minutes faster!

Bear Cubs program is BACK!

Bear Cubs Small_White


Perhaps our best kept Pickwick secret, Bear Cubs ADM, run by Coach Andy Gevorkyan, kicked back into gear in September 2023 after a hiatus due to the pandemic.

Designed to mimic the travel season, the program gives the 6–10-year-olds a little taste of the commitment, structure, and training of higher-level hockey. The Club and Coach Andy saw a gap between the Lil Kings Learn to Skate program and travel hockey, when they realized there was an extremely low retention rate as players moved up. So, Coach Andy organized a 3-semester schedule, 8 weeks per semester, two ice times per week. Each 8-week semester focuses on a skill set. After 3 clinics, a scrimmage is played, followed by three more clinics. This cycle continues for 24 weeks and ends just in time for the player to graduate from the Prospect Academy, ready to step into Spring travel hockey. On average, the program has about fifty players per semester, with players rotating in and out. He has seen huge development and growth as the players move on to their next stage and have found that this type of structure should affect the number of players in California, while increasing participation and retention within the Bears organization at Pickwick.

I opened the article saying this is our “best kept secret” with a little tongue in cheek. We need to get this program attention as it is one of the keys to grassroots development for youth hockey in Los Angeles. All these programs are options for the young athlete, designed to fit a family’s budget, time commitment and player development. Lil Kings, In-House, Bear Cubs ADM, and travel hockey – there is something here for everyone. Check it out!

Flow Chart

The Bear Facts…


Before we were Bears, we were Cubs…


The Bears Cubs Spring Hockey begins April 1st at Pickwick! Here is the link to sign up: https://cubs2024.cheddarup.com



Lots of stuff happening at Pickwick Ice…

Camp Chillin’ on Presidents Day, Monday, February 19th from 9am-4pm. This is a fun day camp featuring traditional activities such as arts & crafts, outdoor games, and you guessed it, skating! No experience required. Ages 6-12.

Learn to Skate & Play classes for kids and adults: Wed/Fri 4:45-6:15pm, Sat 11-2pm. Sign up online. Classes offered all year round.

Public Skates: M/W/F 3-4pm, Tu/Th 1-2pm, Sat 6-7:30pm, Sun 3:45pm-5:15pm.

Pick Up Game: Wed 10-11:30pm.

Stick Time: M/W/F 1:30-2:30pm

Snack Bar: Open weekends

Full-Service Pro Shop: Skate Sharpening!

Create a Daysmart account for online tickets and registration: https://apps.daysmartrecreation.com/dash/x/#/online/lakingsice/login




Watch Untold: Crime & Penalties on Netflix. Its story focuses on the now defunct United Hockey League (UHL) ice hockey team the Danbury Trashers, which was bought by James Galante, a mafia-connected trash kingpin and associate of the Genovese crime family who gifted the team to his 17-year-old son, A. J., making him the president and general manager of the team. I’m sure this movie is already in production starring Robert DeNiro and Connor Bedard.(Age 13 +)

Read Grit by Angela Duckworth! An amazing book where she takes us into the field to visit cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, teachers working in some of the toughest schools, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. What does it mean to be gritty? Without question, hockey is a sport where grit is paramount, and she proves that it can be learned. You can have all the talent in the world, but without grit, it won’t take you far. Now, if you have monumental grit and talent – welcome to the NHL!


Listen to Wondery’s Sports Explains the World: The Mighty Bucks. In1983, Spruce Pine, North Carolina set a record for the smallest town to ever have a professional sports team, a record that remains intact to this day. In an act of perseverance and blind ambition, a remote town of only 2,000 residents ended up with a 5,000-seat hockey stadium. In part one of The Mighty Bucks, reporters Sean and Louise Flynn introduce us to Robert Bailey, a starry-eyed stove maker who knew nothing about hockey, but battled the elements and mixed expectations to build the Pinebridge Bucks. If anybody wants to write this script with me, let me know! This true story needs to be made!


Google the article All Your Life Charlie Brown. All Your Life by Slate Magazine and dive into the history of why Lucy never lets Charlie Brown kick the football. Fascinating read on the sociological, physiological, philosophical, and ecclesiastical reasons behind her mind games. Lucy actually “let” Charlie kick the football once, never pulled it away, but he tripped himself. He missed. I think we’ve all been there, Charlie!


Follow Mentalhealthhockey on Instagram with Brady Leavold. At one point, he was a gritty forward skating alongside future NHL stars until addiction unraveled his life. Now, after a journey that landed him in prison and on the streets, Brady’s working to pick up the pieces. He is truly inspiring as many of us know a relative or a friend who is struggling. As Brady says, “Pain is real. And so is hope.”