Richardson Women’s Hockey League: First Contact

21 12 2009

(Edit April 19, 2010: Welcome, Facebook peeps! Check out my new blog Mister Women’s Sports for more pro and amateur hockey articles in the future!)

Due to a rare weekend off, I was finally able to make the trek to Richardson to check out the Richardson Women’s Hockey League (RWHL). Games are held at the Ice Training Center on Sundays (normally a work day for me) and admission is free.

Note to self: Bring a chair next time as the ice-level benches weren’t particularly inviting and the “crow’s nest” didn’t have a chair up there. But it offered an excellent vantage point compared to ice level for evaluating the quality of play.

The short answer: Officially, these are “pick up” games with a little more organization. No (obvious) coaches, lots of on-the-job training. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I’d be a major ass if I treated this like pro hockey.

The backup line for Team Green

The backup line for Team Green.

Pick up or not, it was still gratifying to see women getting into hockey. They came in with boatloads of gear, and stood in sharp contrast to a coed soccer game I saw earlier this year where both teams dressed in whatever was closest in the closet that day. Hard to play the ball by sight when nobody is dressed in the same colors. I noticed some fudging, such as Dallas Stars items being subbed in lieu of a standard team uniform, but again, the mantra is “organized pick up games.”

Tremendous, tremendous, hockey action

Team Green vs Team Blue, without a doubt.

Going into this experience “cold” (hurrr), I had no idea that the first game was played by the better of the two divisions. The game was rather snappy, with some good shots on goal and decent saves.

Score for the first game

Your final score for Green vs Blue.

RWHL games are three 15-minute periods with very brief intermissions. I think they get just enough time to skate to the bench, squirt some Gatorade into their mouths, and then skate to center ice for the next face-off. I wondered how scheduling a 6:00pm and a 7:30pm game was going to work.

One player talked to me briefly between matches and she removed her jersey to reveal full body armor (I haven’t really gotten a good look at hockey padding and was impressed with the investment). She asked around what team she was playing for next (??!!) and emerged from the locker room wearing a red sweater.

Will play hockey for fun

Will play hockey for fun.

I saw another woman when I entered the facility that reminded me vaguely of Katie [Feenstra] Mattera. She played for Team Red, and it took me a little while to realize this, but she apparently can’t skate backwards while playing hockey. Maybe she can while free skating.

Red team in action

Red vs Grey Team

There was a guy pacing along the walkway beside the rink muttering about the quality of the second game (Red vs Grey). I noted that the first game seemed to have more “zip”, and he explained that the Red/Grey match was the lower division. Which explains the uni-directional skating, for example. And while I might seem like I am trashing this player (I refuse to name names), actually, I think it’s great. It reminds me of the first song I ever sang and played guitar to on tape, and while it was a sonic disaster, it gives me chills every time I listen to it because through the chaos the sheer pleasure of performance is unmistakable. So I say, good on ya, forward-skater, because you’re playing hockey and I’m a spectator.

Organized face off

Faceoff at center ice.

Whether it is pro hockey or organized pickup league chaos, hockey strikes me as similar to soccer in that you can have a coach harangue on you from start to finish, but the majority of the game comes down to snap decisions on the field or on the ice. The slower pace of the RWHL games allowed me to see the run of play in its basic form and gain a better understanding and appreciation for how the game comes together and how hard it is to play at the pro level. Stuff the Dallas Stars make look easy is actually anything but.

Score for Red vs Grey

Compare and contrast with the first game. Doh!

The Sideline Pacer got more vocal in his discontent as the game went into overtime, and further to his dismay, a shootout. “Nobody on either team is good enough at that level to beat the goalie. It’s going to be a very long shootout.”

Boing, Team Red scored on the first pass.

Shootout

Team Red for the win!

Team Grey missed all three shootout attempts and Team Red notched the win, much to the Sideline Pacer’s relief.

Handshake line

Final handshake (fist-bump?) line of the night.

I hung around the lobby to silently observe the teams as they dispersed. Who are these women? What got them interested in playing hockey? Where did they get all of that pro-level gear? Is there an after-party? (Seemed like “no” to that last question.)

The answers to those questions and more will have to wait for another day. In the meantime, check out the RWHL, or if you’ve been thinking about learning to play but didn’t think the opportunity existed in the North Dallas area, it does!

I didn’t get to use my icebreaker (hurr), but if anyone asked me why I came to the Ice Training Center to watch the RWHL, I was going to say that I heard that was the best place for pick-up lines.

Groan yourself.

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