Amy Hatten: Falling for a good time |

Amy Hatten: Falling for a good time

They said it’s OK that I’ve never handled a hockey stick before or taken a puck to the shin, but I didn’t really believe it.

I’ll admit, my initial thoughts about joining a women’s ice hockey team, Craig’s Puck Ewes, was excitement — mixed, of course, with a healthy dose of fear. Fear that that ice would rush up to meet me at every chance; fear of not knowing the skills that could keep me off that frozen surface; and fear of playing with a group of women geared up with enough padding and weapons that they could easily head to war if they took an inkling to it — and stand a good chance of winning.

Yet from my first hesitant skid across the ice, it was evident we were all on the same team. Longtime members mix with newbies still wobbly on their skates to make up this year’s team of about 30 players. The faces behind the jail-bar masks seem to soften as players hollered out commands and encouragement for a pass well-played or a fast break, politely ignoring, of course, the 10 mistakes it took to make it to that point.

Since the team’s slow beginnings in 1996, women have been encouraging women to get out on the ice and take the chance to play hard and go fast. Sure, there’s the threat that you can (and most likely will) fall down, but so what. A little bruising and some sore muscles never hurt anyone.

Charlene Abdella started playing after age 40 when she got tired of just watching her daughter and husband skate. At that time — before blessed refrigeration at the rink — players skated maybe a couple of times a month on local ice. It was drippy, and the ice was spotty. The team, then called the Falling Stars was small, with about a dozen people. Those stars aren’t falling anymore. To make a few observations, Shandy makes a fine forward. Lani and Jamie play seamlessly together. Charlene is an ace on defense.

Nobody really can trace back (or at least will admit to) just how the name Puck Ewes was contrived. Its hard-core edge and tough girl innuendo seems scary, but in the ice hockey world, it fits. In comparison, Aspen women call themselves the MotherPuckers. Steamboat Springs boasts Chix with Stix, while Vail women play for the Twin Peaks.

So why do players keep coming back to the sport and at least a few new ones join up each year? Some players cite camaraderie; others the thrill of going fast.

Gayle Criswell never thought of herself as the aggressive type, until she found out how good it felt to be competitive. Besides, filling up a long winter with games and practices can make time fly by fast– almost as fast as a lone break headed by a puck screaming toward the goal.

“If you don’t do anything, winter drags by,” she reasoned.

For me, it was a couple of players’ phone calls and gentle prodding that first got me onto the ice. Honestly, it’s not something I really thought I could do or had in me. And it might turn out that I don’t. In the meantime, I’m having a good time testing out my new legs.

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