Ice Wolves vs Lone Star Brahmas
Camaura Lucero, a freshman at Sandia Prep, controls a camera as the Ice Wolves faced off against the Lone Star Brahmas in NAHL playoffs Wednesday at the Outpost Ice Arenas.

Rune Schuman’s fingers danced over the flashing rows of green, blue, orange and white buttons of the NewTek Tricaster, playing it almost like a pianissimo. Behind her, Matt Vencill orchestrated Schuman’s moves, selecting scenes from 12 different camera angles.

Vencill is the director of the New Mexico Ice Wolves audio and video team that is comprised of teenagers — most of whom are still in high school but earning class credit as well as getting paid while producing the broadcast that the North American Hockey League streams for each game.

The Ice Wolves’ season came to an end Wednesday with a 4-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas in the South Division semifinals of the Robertson Cup playoffs at the Outpost Ice Arenas.

The production room where the magic happens is stocked with top-of-line equipment that owner Stan Hubbard, whose family has been in the television business for generations, has been able cull from his various contacts.

And local high school kids are the beneficiaries, even if they knew nothing about hockey before signing on.

“I hadn’t even seen a game before the past two years,” said Schuman, who graduated from the New Mexico Academy for the Media Arts a year ago, but wanted to continue working with the program this season. “But what’s kept me going is all the fighting. All the physical stuff is entertaining stuff. And on top of that, all of the cool stuff we get to touch like the replay machines and the big, old cameras. The Tricaster machine is so cool. Do you see how many buttons there are? It’s so much fun. Every position has been easy to learn, but it gives you an actual, genuine skill that I’m excited to hone in on.”

In starting the program to accompany the start up of the Ice Wolves, Hubbard said the goal was to give back.

“These kids get involved in these productions and learn how to do it,” he said. “They get credit from their school and a paycheck for doing it. It’s a pretty nice thing. When we started this, our whole effort was what can we do to help the community and one of the ways was putting this program together. It’s amazing what kids can do with audio visual. They do it on their phones, but this is taking it to a new level.”

The idea of making some money was a draw for Sandia Prep freshman Camaura Lucero.

“It was to experience a new job,” she said. “It’s a good way to make money and have fun while working. I had no idea about hockey. I do dance, but hockey is really interesting and fun to watch.”

Lucero generally runs one of the cameras, which she discovered she enjoys.

“I really like filming and I never actually thought I would be someone who enjoys filming,” she said.

Seeing the students blossom is the rewarding aspect of the program, Vencill said

“Once they sit down and go through it, something clicks,” he said. “But when they see it, they go, no no no. All those buttons. All those monitors. I can’t do that. Then you sit them down and they zone right in. It’s great. That’s the most exciting thing to see.”

For Schuman, it’s something she has enjoyed so much that she plans to study production at the University of New Mexico when she starts in the fall.

“I’m going to use all of this when I go to UNM to do film there,” Schuman said. “I’m very excited.”

It even led to a full time gig in the industry for program alum Casey James, who continues to help as an instructor for the current group while also working full time for REELZ, an Albuquerque-based American digital cable and satellite television network owned by Hubbard Broadcasting.

“I’d like to say I knew it was what I wanted to do immediately, but it felt like a snowball rolling down hill, everything piling on top of each other and getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “I was originally interested in becoming a paramedic but the internship caught my eye because I always enjoyed making movies on my phone. And it was a paid internship, but I was also excited to use cameras professionally and not just a little YouTube video. And as soon as I got my hands dirty, it just never stopped.”