Pam Boyd
pboyd@eaglevalleyenterprise.com

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March 20, 2013
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Breaking through the ice ceiling

By day they are regular moms - getting the kids off to school, ferrying them to various appointments and programs, and heading off to work. But slap on some padding and suddenly a horde of hockey mavens emerges.

"If you can ice skate, even just a little, we can get you playing hockey," said Sheryl Staten, manager of the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District Eagle Pool and Ice Rink facility. Staten is also an enthusiastic member of the 2012-13 Eagle's squad.

This year, the WECMRD/Mountain Women's Hockey League attracted enough players for five squads - the Brewsers, the Wild, the Shooters, the Checkers and the Eagles. This season marked the 10th year for a local women's hockey league.

According to Staten, about 75 to 90 local women sign up to play each season. "Our average player age is late 30s, early 40s," she noted. However, the league accepts players as young as 18 and as old as are willing to play.

What brings a mom out on the ice? According to Staten, some end up joining the league because their kids or husbands are hockey players.

"A lot of women get into it because it's a family thing, but we get a mix of everyone," said Staten. "I have a girl on my team who was a figure skater and we do see her figure skating background on the ice every now and then."

For many of the players, once they hit the ice they are hooked. Heather Rawlings is a case in point.

Rawlings said for years Staten and another friend, Sacha Kostick, have urged her to play.

"But I hadn't played competitive hockey since I was 10 and I am a lot older now," said Rawlings. After her friends repeatedly assured her she didn't have to be good, she just had to know how to skate, Rawlings decided to give hockey a try.

"Now I can't imagine what took me so long to do it," she said.

"I play defense and my son is also a defenseman. At 10, he is much better than I am," Rawlings continued.

She said one of the best compliments she received all season was from her hockey-playing son, Jensen. He went to one of her early games and then attended an Eagles game during last week's tournament. Jenson told his mom she had really gotten better.

"The most difficult part of playing was just getting over myself mentally," Rawlings said. She had butterflies in her stomach before every game. "Sure it's all for fun, but if you don't get nervous before a game, it means you don't care. I got nervous because I wanted to do right by all the people."

In referring to "all the people" Rawlings was speaking of her team's volunteer coaches and her teammates. Talk to any league member and they trumpet coach volunteers - Tim Dundon and Bruce of the Brewers; Willow Murphy and Shane Gremmer of the Wild; Kris Schweitzer of the Shooters; Paul Redmond, Steve Mueller and Nick Graham of the Eagles; and Brian Culp and Karl Borsi of the Checkers.

Players also trumpet one another.

"The women's hockey league is awesome," said eight-year veteran player and Eagles team captain Claudia Wells. "It's the neatest group of woman I have ever met in my life."

When asked what's the most difficult part of playing hockey, Wells is stumped.

"I am not a natural athlete but I don't think there is anything hard about it. It's just fun," she said. "Its great exercise and once you start playing, it's addictive."

Wells said playing hockey is largely about learning some basic skills. That's what the coaches stress and that's what players pick up in quick order. "For most people, it's just not that hard."

Five years ago, Kim Sharkey and a friend decided to sign up together. "I had probably ice skated 10 times in my whole life before doing this," she said.

Like so many other players in the league, after her first season, Sharkey was hooked. She has played on three different teams during the past five years. "I like all the camaraderie and it's a great workout," she said. "We all play against one another and then with one another. You duke it out on the ice and then have beers together after the game."

Rawlings was surprised by how the league includes a wide swath of women. One teammate is a friend of Rawling's mother and others are young 20-somethings. "It's a great atmosphere, with kids coming to the games and yelling, 'Go Mommy!'"

Rawlings noted that her participation in the league did require family support with practices and games taking up a couple of evenings a week. The season began with the player draft and practices back in November.

"But the season didn't last nearly long enough," she said. "As a rookie, I really got into it. It is fabulous exercise and I now have 14 more friends than I had three months ago and they are all wonderful women."

Wonderful women with an ornery streak, is more like it.

Good natured heckling and rabid team spirit are a mainstay of the league. Staten said traditionally, teams start pranking one another at tournament time, but this year, trash talk was a season-long phenomenon.

"We have been toilet papering each other's houses and painting on people's cars all season," said Staten. "There has definitely been a lot of heckling this year."

One team snuck into the locker room during another team's practice and proceeded to Saran wrap all the players bags, gear and shoes. Another time, a team was busy making posters at a member's house and when they went out to their cars, they found their rivals had been busy 'decorating.'

"People were calling out one another on Facebook all season," said Wells.

After the tournament ended last Sunday, players converged for a raucous celebration at Moe's in Eagle. So, while the 2012-13 season is now in the books, the sport's unique combination of sweat, social interaction and silliness already has members looking ahead to next year.

"I certainly plan on being in better shape next year when I start," said Rawlings. "I love women's hockey. I am hooked."

While the local women's recreational hockey season is now done, competitive traveling team women's hockey is coming to the Eagle rink this weekend.

The Women's Association of Colorado Hockey Mountain Division Tournament is planned March 22-23. The field includes nine squads:

• Fatty Fury Breckenridge

• Violent Femmes Vail

• Vail Twin Peaks

• Steamboat Bobcats

• Aspen Mother Puckers 2

• Glenwood Ice Queens

• Slick Chicks Glenwood

• Downvalley Divas Eagle

For more information about the WACH and the upcoming tournament visit wachhocky.com


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The VailDaily Updated Mar 20, 2013 01:28PM Published Mar 20, 2013 12:52PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.