Photo Courtesy Of Colin O’Neal. Pictured is former Newsome hockey player Scotty Vargas.

Sports have always come naturally to Colin O’Neal. He played quarterback in high school, and played college baseball for the University of Kansas, later moving on to pro baseball. Even though he had talent in both those sports, his true love may have been on the ice, with skates and a hockey stick.

The FishHawk resident played hockey growing up in St. Louis. He played with some players that would go on to play in the NHL, such as former Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop. He decided at 14 to give up hockey and pursue other sports. He became a Junior College All-American in 2006 at St. Louis Community College and is in the school’s Hall of Fame.

O’Neal wanted to put his skates back on to honor his late mother who loved to watch him play. Two years ago he started the Tampa Bay Blues, a club hockey team that features several former professional and college players that range from their mid 20s to early 30s. The team plays in tournaments all over the Southeast. He named the team after he and his mom’s favorite hockey team from his home town, the St. Louis Blues.

The Tampa Bay Blues recently played the USF hockey team in an exhibition game. The Blues lost 6-4, but they outshot USF 66-34. The University of Tampa has also expressed interest in playing the Blues as well. The team is getting a lot of calls from college teams for potential matchups, and they plan on playing in a tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona on Super Bowl week in February at the Phoenix Coyote’s practice facility.

Former Newsome hockey star Scotty Vargas plays on the team. Vargas played college hockey at Finlandia University in Michigan and later played pro hockey in Sweden and Finland.

Other players on the team include Nick Sullivan, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s emergency backup goalie; goalie John Nauta; Myles Harvey, who played in the Anaheim Ducks organization and was the captain at Providence University; Brett Agnew, one of Ohio University’s all-time leading scorers; Zach Remers who plays at Buffalo State University and is on his way to earning a pro contract after college; Mark Nebus who played professionally for about 10 years; Billy Siers who played in the ECHL; Tyler Watkins, who played at Bowling Green University; Dalton Weinstein who played at Skidmore College; Matt Meyer and Andrew Silvers, both of whom played at USF and are two of their all-time leading scorers; and Phil Geroldstein, a member of Southern Main University’s Hall of Fame.

“We want to be known as the top adult hockey team in the Southeast,” said O’Neal. “We have developed that reputation; over the last year we have won five out of the last seven tournaments that we’ve played in.”

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.