I know this is not College Hockey releated, but it's almost the off-season, and a little publicity can't hurt:
By RANDY BOOTH
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
DOVER — Janet Gnall breathes heavily and is red in the face after an exhausting hour-and-a-half hockey practice. But she can't rest up too long because she's running late.
"Now I'm pulling the mommy thing," Gnall said, "because I have to go to my son's first-grade classroom and read."
Gnall isn't alone. She is one of many in a growing group of women (mostly mothers) who travel to Dover Ice Arena on Tuesday mornings to participate in a new program specifically designed for women interested in learning how to play hockey.
The idea was spurred by Janet Casselman, who saw a similar program start up in Exeter. Casselman and other hockey moms began talking at their children's games about the possibilities of getting themselves on the ice.
"All our kids play together and I thought, 'Why don't we play and join them?'" she said.
The idea didn't take long to become tangible. Casselman approached Ray Pasquale, an instructor at the Dover Arena, with the idea. He told her to find a few more women who would participate to get the ball rolling, which didn't prove hard at all for Casselman.
"During the day there's a lot of stay-at-home moms that could do this," she said. "It's great exercise and it's $10. There's no commitment, which is great for moms as well."
The program has had just two practices, but it is growing as more women commit to playing. Casselman said there have been more than 10 women interested, with more showing interest as word of the program spreads. There is no age requirement for joining the program. Currently, the ages range from 20 to 50 years old.
For both Gnall and Casselman, a big positive to learning the game is giving them something to talk to their family about around the dinner table.
"If you don't join them, then you don't have anything to talk to your kids about," Gnall said. "So I figured if my boys and my husband are playing hockey, then why don't I do it so they can still talk to me?"
Practices consist of skills training, positioning and general learning of the game of hockey. Each practice concludes with a scrimmage where the women can put their new skills to test. Practices are held 8:30-10 a.m. every Tuesday.
"There are many positives to joining the program," Gnall said, "but maybe the best is being able to break up the everyday routine of being a mother.
"The only thing you're thinking about is skating and hockey when you're out here," she said. "Your brain just detaches from your every day, so it's kind of nice. It's a little break."
Participants currently bring their own equipment to use at practice, but Pasquale said there is some equipment available to use at the arena, if necessary. He said he hopes to have a basic package available next year for women without the necessary gear to start.
Casselman said her perspective of watching her children play hockey has changed now that she's spent time on the ice.
"I'm much gentler on my children now," she said. "I get it. I don't criticize after games, I just go with it. I can see what they're thinking when they're on the ice now. Whereas before I was like, 'Why aren't you over there?'"
Despite the differences in skills among the women, as some are a little more advanced than others, Casselman said there's no issue meshing everyone together.
"There's a great camaraderie with the women," she said. "We do nothing but laugh. Nobody judges anyone."
Maybe the bigger question is this — of all the sports that exist, why hockey? These women could be playing basketball, tennis, racquetball or anything else, but they choose to lace up the skates and take a bruising, too, even if checking isn't allowed.
"I'm Canadian," Casselman said with a laugh, "so I've got to be in the rink. It's in the blood."
The players and Pasquale hope that the program is so successful that it can lead into a team of women that plays in tournaments. For now, though, they're just enjoying their time breaking the old stereotype of a stay-at-home mom.
"We call ourselves stay-at-home moms, but we're very rarely there," Gnall said. "I don't think any of us wear pearls and dresses at home."
Casselman cut in — "No perfume allowed."