Oscar Sizemore fell in love with hockey at a young age. His dad, Danny, a former player himself, would tell him stories of his days playing the sport. Naturally, the love of the sport rubbed off on him.
“He played it as a kid, so he told me the stories about him playing,” Oscar Sizemore said. “Once you play hockey, all the other sports feel slow. It’s such a fast-paced game.”
Oscar, a Martinsville native who attends Martinsville High School, was about 9 years old when he was first noticed by a travel coach who wanted him to play. Eventually, that would lead to playing for the junior Fuel in Indianapolis.
Standing tall with long, black, flowy hair, one wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell Sizemore was a hockey player. He looks like an average 16-year-old kid. But put him on the ice and the talent is indisputable.
It’s why junior leagues, devoted to getting players to the collegiate and professional ranks, have already started calling.
Sizemore was 15 when he was first contacted about joining the United States Premier Hockey League. He’s had plenty of invitations since, including from Canada.
But making the decision to leave everything he knows at 16 has not been easy.
Far from it.
A gem in an unlikely place
The nation knows Indiana as the basketball state – one that possesses 11 of the 13 largest gymnasiums in the United States, including the top six.
However, it’s undeniable there are plenty of other great sports and athletes that come out of Indiana. Hockey on the other hand? Not so much.
That’s not to say there’s a hockey culture in Indiana. Notre Dame consistently boasts great teams on the ice, and there’s two professional teams that, for the most part, are within driving distance in Chicago and Columbus, Ohio.
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When you take it down to high school and youth levels, it gets complicated.
For starters, hockey isn’t an IHSAA sanctioned sport, leaving much of the sport in the dark. Instead, it’s governed by the Indiana State High School Hockey Association. There are 33 possible teams one can join in Indiana.
For a Martinsville student like Sizemore, it means having to make the 21-mile drive to Bloomington where he plays for the Bloomington Blades.
The Blades play a regular high school schedule, but with 33 teams, to a much more limited capacity.
According to the ISHSHA’s website, the teams compete across six leagues (divisions) for state class titles in the spring, which are divided similar to the IHSAA with Classes 1-4A.
Among the six divisions, the Blades play in the Hoosier Championship, which features HSE, Carmel, Central Indiana Knights and Evansville Purple.
Stuck between two rival communities
Given Sizemore’s roots in Martinsville, he hears about it – from both sides, Martinsville and Bloomington.
Like any student athlete, Sizemore is proud of the sport he plays. He’s even got a varsity jacket. The only problem is he can’t wear it. He was brave enough to try it one time – needles to say, it didn’t go over well.
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“I got a varsity jacket and I wore it to school one time, I will never do that again,” Sizemore said, laughing about the incident. “It’s got a big ole ‘B’ on it and they’re like, ‘man, what are you wearing?'”
In Bloomington, his teammates like to tease him about being a Martinsville kid.
“All the time, it’s, ‘Martinsville, nobody likes Martinsville, you guys ain’t got nothing to do,'” he said.
Regardless, he’s never really though much of it. To him it’s where it all started.
“It would be worse if I didn’t have roots, but Bloomington is where it all started, it’s where it all began,” Sizemore said.
Grit and grind
Rivalries aside, the Blades have some serious talent on the ice.
Just this season, the team won the Hoosier Championship. What makes it all more special is that, unlike some of the other teams, in Bloomington, everyone makes the team.
So the Blades have been getting it done with talent grown from the ground up. That alone is an impressive feat. Especially in such a basketball oriented city.
The team most recently sent Bloomington North’s Eli Prather, who had 54 goals and 63 assists during his career with the Blades, to the USPHL’s Lake Tahoe Lakers. Former Blades member Dashel Oliver played for the United States U-17 hockey team in 2021.
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Now they’ve had their eyes set on Sizemore.
Sizemore has gained a reputation as the team’s bodyguard of sorts. He drops his gloves fairly often, he’s never afraid of a fight and, most of all, he leaves everything he has on the rink.
“If you watch him play, he doesn’t play with finesse or skill, but he brings a side of the game … everybody that watches him play, every shift he goes out, he gives 100%,” Danny said. “If somebody needs hit, he’s hitting them. If it comes to having a fight, he’s protecting his goalie.”
He still remembers the moment where it all clicked. The moment he felt his game was starting to come together. It was during his first year for Bloomington.
“There was a moment, I remember it, it snapped, I just saw the lane, where to go, what to do and it all just clicked together,” he said. “I was like man, I’m feeling pretty good. That’s when I noticed I’m starting to get better and now, I’m starting to move and just keep it going.”
Rock and a hard place
To make the jump to the USPHL, or any amateur league for that matter, is a tough one. But at such a young age, it’s especially difficult, mostly because he’s still just a teen. He wants to live out the experience of a normal teenager.
Sizemore doesn’t even have a license yet. Joining a junior league requires a major move. At 16, he just became eligible to sign with the USPHL. Leaving all the friends and family to go to a place that’s distant, knowing nobody, it’s tough.
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But if he were to sign, he’d be entirely committed to going pro.
“If I’m moving, I’m going to the NHL,” Sizemore said. “I’m going to be the best on that team. I’m going to beat everybody. I’m going to commit to it that hard.”
Ultimately, in the event Sizemore decides not to go, there’s a belief that if teams want him now as an unfinished young prospect, they’ll still want him by the time he’s done with high school.
“If I don’t think about it too much, I’ll go play wherever,” Sizemore said. “But I’ve got people here who I like, who I rely on. Other than that, you can always meet new people. I just don’t know, that’s all, I’m kind of caught in the middle.”
In addition to that, he’s wrestling with thoughts of staying altogether and becoming a firefighter, something that he also takes after his dad. Ultimately, it’s a similar setting to hockey, so the fit makes sense.
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“I don’t want to go sit and work at an office job, sit at a desk,” Sizemore said. “I want to be able to do something, get something done.”
No matter what direction Sizemore ends up choosing, or what path is presented to him, it’s clear there’s a bright future ahead.
“We’ve had people say, ‘You’re never going to make it, nobody from Indiana is going to get these offers,'” Danny Sizemore said. “Here it is now, we’re getting the calls.”
Contact reporter Devin Voss at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @ DevinVoss23.