The ceramic Christmas village sprawled across the hearth in Regina Labrum's family room has four ice-skating ponds and a frozen river interspersed among the rows of houses.

Labrum, who organized Utah County's first youth hockey league this fall, can only wish there was that much ice in the valley. Utah Lake State Park provides the only hockey venue in the county. The kidney-shaped rink at Seven Peaks Resort doesn't suit hockey.Despite the glaring lack of places to skate, Labrum and several others forged the Timpanogos Amateur Hockey Association, or TAHA, for short. Eight teams totaling 110 boys and girls from age 5 to 15 in four divisions practice twice a week. Games at the chilly outdoor rink start early Saturday mornings at an hour when most parents are burrowed into a down comforter and children are watching cartoons.

"I've always really dreamed of having an association in Utah County," said Labrum.

It's an unusual dream for the American Fork homemaker who was born in Brazil and educated in England, places where goals are scored on grass, not ice. Ken and Regina Labrum's only son, Nick, 14, among four daughters, has played five seasons in the Salt Lake Amateur Hockey Asso-cia-tion.

"Nick seems to be my reason to get moving. He's taught me so much in my life. When I see the happiness hockey gives him, why not share it?" she says.

Nick was born with numerous birth defects and will undergo surgery for the 33rd time in April. He was featured in a Deseret News story in February 1993 prior to receiving the Young Heroes Award from the Utah Air National Guard. Nick continues to play hockey and also referees youth games in the Salt Lake area and Provo.

Labrum, 42, of American Fork, didn't make her vision a reality without help from at least two other dedicated women, Debbie Sermon and Lorraine Gaufin. The three serve as TAHA's president, vice president and secretary, respectively. They secured sponsorships from Smith's Food and Drug Centers and Coca-Cola. The association is affiliated with USA Hockey, which provides insurance and certification for coaches and referees.

Like Manon Rheaume, the first female professional hockey player, the "three musketeers," as they're sometimes called, have done well in a traditionally male domain.

"We're just supportive moms," Labrum shrugs.

Gaufin's 12-year-old daughter, Geri, and 6-year-old son, Doug, both play in the league. Gaufin, of Orem, said hockey helps fills a winter-activity void for children. "I like the idea that it takes away the ability to be a couch potato or hang out in the mall," she said. TAHA's motto is "Kids on ice don't get into hot water."

About 90 percent of the players in the league are new to the sport, a surprising statistic considering professional hockey is about as alive in North America right now as it is in, well, Brazil or England. Children don't have any professional players to excite them about the sport. National Hockey League owners locked players out prior to the start of the 1994-95 season, and the Salt Lake Golden Eagles moved to Detroit last year.

"Coming from the West Coast, I never thought I'd be taking my son to hockey practice," said Grove Bolles, while watching his 7-year-old boy, Westin, play a game Saturday. In-line skating and the movie "Mighty Ducks" piqued Westin's interest. He now sleeps with his hockey stick.

Many TAHA players had laced on a pair of ice skates only once or twice prior to the first practice.

"Everybody was falling down. Sticks and gloves were everywhere," said David Lamb, a mite division coach.

But in the several weeks since, even the youngest of players have mastered the basic skills. They also understand the game.

Doug Gaufin, 6, wants to score goals; Bobby Patterson, 7, says he like to play defense.

Parents whose children weren't too interested in other sports noticed a change in them when they started playing hockey. They've found a niche, and their confidence and self-esteem is soaring.

"They have big grins coming off the ice," Gaufin said. "There's a gleam in their eyes."

Not many Utah County children participate in the Salt Lake league because of the frequent trips to Bountiful or Cottonwood ice rinks for practice and games. Ice time in northern Utah also is scarce because of the many figure skaters, speed skaters and youth, high school and college hockey teams clamoring for a piece of the ice. Nick Labrum played in some games that started at 4 a.m.

Practices on Sundays - a day when ice usually is available - also didn't sit well with Labrum.

"Even though I was coaching last year, I decided to rebel. I didn't go to one Sunday practice. Our team ended up taking first place," she said.

That rather mild rebellious streak eventually turned into the TAHA. The fledgling league is off to a good start despite some limitations.

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With only one ice rink in the county, games and practices are still early in the morning or late at night. But players don't have as far to travel. The two teams in each division play each other week in and week out.

Participation doesn't come cheaply. Registration fees are about $185, and equipment for one child can cost as much as $200.

Nevertheless, TAHA organizers and coaches expect the league to double in size next year.

Labrum's next goal is to get a roof over the open-air Utah Lake State Park ice rink. And she hopes Salt Lake City wins its bid to host the 2002 Winter Games because it could bring a new ice venue to Provo. Meanwhile, Labrum can look at her Christmas village with the four skating ponds and continue to dream.

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