Women’s Hockey is Not an Oxymoron

2 11 2009

Having “discovered” women’s hockey over the last few days, I am fascinated to learn about its genesis, and its future. Whether you are a hockey fan, women’s athletics fan, or, like me, a fool for “underdog” stories, women’s hockey is a gold mine of inspiration and education.

I made mention yesterday about the charity golf tournament that “secretly” raised money for the Canadian Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, which, in isolation, might read as a one-off feel-good story that one could smile over and walk away from.

Instead, it motivated me to dig deeper. Who are the women of pro and amateur hockey? Where is it being played? How long have women been involved? What challenges do they face in forming teams and leagues? Are they being kept down by “the haters”?

The answers, as they say in news magazine parlance, will shock you.

Who: I haven’t found the exact genesis point of women’s hockey yet, but by and large the women of hockey come from all walks of life. Thanks to this most recent (US) presidential election cycle, the term “hockey mom” is often meant like “soccer mom”, meaning a woman who shuttles her kids to and from games. “Hockey mom” takes on a new flavor when she laces up skates, puts on the pads, and hits center ice as a member of, say, the Central Penn Blades.

Check out their roster for an excellent cross-section of the “who” of women’s hockey.

What: Women’s hockey, yo.

When: Year-round, but seems to be most active from October to March.

Where: There are several leagues/teams throughout the US, some more cohesive than others. In 1998, the NCAA requirement of 40 collegiate teams for a tournament was met, and in 2001 the inaugural NCAA Women’s Frozen Four was held at the University of Minnesota. Minnesota is the chosen site for the 2010 tournament.

A national pro league does not appear to exist at this time, but as the sport is in its infancy, I think the Frozen Four is as major as women’s hockey gets right now. (As in, yearly. Team USA would be the apex, if I am following the progression correctly.) Canada does have a pro league that plays for the Clarkson Cup. (Edit: This is not accurate, as two leagues vie for the cup. The CWHL is NOT a pro league at this time. My apologies for the error.)

Why: Because they just gotta, that’s why!

Okay, like I said about the “gold mine” of inspiration at the open, the “why” is like crack for me. Check out these testimonials:

Women’s ice hockey has been in existence for many years now in Central Pennsylvania. In August of 1995, five mothers responded to a challenge issued by their sons and daughters to try the game of ice hockey. The mom’s rented out “The Puddle” at Twin Ponds East in Harrisburg, PA. They liked it so much that they rented ice the next week with a couple more moms coming. The moms met weekly, with new members each time, forming the “Moms on Ice” program. By March 1996, the skill level and size of the program had increased to 50 members, so the normal ice surface was used. (Cite – and please read the whole story)

We are a women’s ice hockey team from the Philly area. Established in 2001, we play in the C division of the United Women’s Hockey League (UWHL) and call the Grundy Rink in Bristol, PA our home. In the off-season, we play open hockey with other local teams and travel to tournaments around the Northeast. We love the game of hockey, and we play to have fun! (Cite)

I have to give grudging yet deserved props to Texas A&M. I’m not a Texan, I don’t have skin in the rivalry game with A&M, but they really aren’t my favorite Texas university ever. But while other schools are disinclined, disinterested, unable, or whatever the reason is for not “icing” a women’s hockey team, A&M did it. So let’s shine the limelight on Texas A&M:

The opening of Arctic Wolf Ice Center in College Station introduced a lot of people to the game of hockey, be it going ice skating for the first time or watching the Texas A&M Men’s Ice Hockey team beat the hell outta t.u. (whoop!). One area that has especially grown is the interest of girls in hockey. Having our very own rink in College Station has made it possible for us to start a women’s hockey team at A&M. As of Fall 2006, the Texas A&M Women’s Ice Hockey club is a recognized organization at A&M.

And some favorite quotes from the players, which got me fired up about exploring the depths of this rabbit hole:

“Listen to the mustn’ts child, listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibilities, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” -Shel Silverstein

“Never regret anything, because at one point in time it was exactly what you wanted” — “The only thing that matters when you are gone are the investments you have made in other people.” –My Mom

(More can be found on the official site.)

Okay. You might be raising a curious eyebrow about this women’s hockey stuff, but really, what can I say that equals seeing the real deal?

Well, you’re in luck. The Women’s 4 Nations Cup tournament starts tomorrow at 11:30am ET. Fortunately, the game is going to be available for streaming not only live, but any time afterward. Watch at your leisure. See Team USA. See Team Canada. Believe that when goals are set and courage and resolve summoned, progress becomes possible.

TAMU Womens Hockey Team

Give these ladies a hand... and some competition!

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