Hop into the Plant family minivan, and transport yourself into the road-weary world of travel ice hockey.
Nearly every weekend for the next three months, DeMatha senior Bobby Plant will pack his hockey equipment, clothes and schoolwork for trips to Connecticut, Massachusetts or New York with his travel team, the Washington Little Capitals, a collection of the area's best players that competes in the Atlantic Metro Hockey League. A game in Boston is no big deal; one in Philadelphia is a relief.
Those trips, of course, are in addition to DeMatha's full schedule in the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League, in which the Stags have won the last two championships. The family van will follow DeMatha to North Andover, Mass., this weekend when the Stags play in the Brooks-Pingree Tournament, and later to West Chester, Pa., for the Iceline Tournament Dec. 29-31.
The long hours on the road sometimes pull him out of class, and a hockey trip in the spring took precedence over prom. The van is cramped and team buses have broken down, but, for Plant, the chance to play hockey makes the miles slide by.
"It does take away from your social life, but it's definitely worth it," Plant said. "I love the game and nothing can take that away. Hanging out with friends can't compete with this. It's like going on a road trip with your best friends."
Plant has been prepared for these trips his entire life. Born to two rabid Washington Capitals fans in 1985, Plant was named after Bob Christopher, a center who scored 161 goals for the Capitals from 1981 to 1986.
Plant learned to skate when he was 2 years old, played on his first hockey team two years later and hit the road with his first travel hockey team when he was 6. He was practically raised in the recently demolished Capital Centre, as the family spent many nights in a skybox, where Plant memorized all of the Capitals' players before he enrolled in kindergarten. Since then, Plant has become one of the better hockey players in the Washington area, and DeMatha's most dangerous weapon.
"He is a pure talent," DeMatha Coach Matt Revkin said. "We're hopping on his back and he's taking us wherever we are going to go."
Last season, Plant led the Little Capitals in scoring despite being one of the youngest players in the league. This year, he is an assistant captain on the team and 10th in the league in scoring with 10 goals and 11 assists through 17 games.
For DeMatha, Plant has 13 goals and 10 assists in 10 games this season, but his most important contributions are not goals. Plant is the team's only captain -- Revkin had not named assistant captains as of the start of the week -- and is charged with helping teach a team that includes four freshmen and eight sophomores.
"He brings tremendous leadership. All of the younger guys look up to him because he's that good," Revkin said. "When he is on the ice, it's almost like everyone looks to him to pick the team up."
Plant is hoping to grab the attention of Division I college coaches and earn a college scholarship as a reward for the many hours logged in the family van or chartered bus. But being born to hockey fans and practically raised at hockey games, Plant has taken the road seemingly set for him at birth.
"Most of the time, I think I was born to do it," Plant said. "I picked it up when I was little, and it's been my life ever since."