Women of all ages, backgrounds and life experiences have been coming together for generations to discuss their book club’s latest selection. But just as book clubs are no longer just for women, hockey clubs are no longer just for men.
Many women like Bellevue resident Daniella Moreano, 23, have opted out of book clubs for a more lively and interactive clubs such as the Seattle Women’s Hockey Club.
Moreano, who grew up in Bellevue, said she played hockey for a year in high school when she lived in Pennsylvania. She said she hadn’t played again until about a year ago when she returned home after college. She is a mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Colorado.
Moreano had a family friend who had played in a league, years ago; and “thought it would be fun to do in the afternoons.”
Moreano learned about the hockey club and its annual Give Hockey a Try event after typing Seattle Hockey into Google. She said she went to last year’s event and then joined the league.
The hockey club is a nonprofit organization that encourages women 18 and older, with or without skating experience, to give ice hockey a try at their annual GHAT event. Club members bring in gear and provide basic ice training, so women interested in the sport can try it out before spending any money.
And for those who love it, SWHC strives to make membership costs attainable by holding an annual fundraiser in February and offers three different membership levels.
Joan Morgan, 48, a lawyer from West Seattle and SWHC board member, said that what’s really great about GHAT is you get to try it [ice hockey] all out for free.
“We’ll have everything you will need to try it out,” Morgan said. In addition to all the loaner gear, there will be an experienced coach to teach everyone some hockey basics.
Morgan said she couldn’t think of any other league, or sport for that matter, that allows a person to borrow everything you’ll need, and an hour of coaching, just to try the sport out. “All at no charge!” she added.
In a 2005 essay contest for USA Hockey Magazine, Morgan wrote that she had decided to give ice hockey a try after losing more than 80 pounds and establishing an exercise routine.
“I just wanted some kind of sport that would keep me occupied for a long time,” she said. “All I knew is it was way out of my comfort zone. I had no clue what it was going to be like. I had negative ideas about what it was.
“It turned out to be so cool!” she added.
Christine R. Hatcher of Seattle, a 34-year-old architect, is president of the club’s board. She said the focus of SWHC is to educate women about ice hockey.
“Our season involves coach-run practices as well as games and tournaments. Most other leagues in the area only offer the opportunity to play in games, which may be very daunting for a woman with absolutely no experience,” she added.
Hatcher said that SWHC teams range anywhere from newbie to seasoned skater.
“Everyone helps out the new skaters,” she said.
Hatcher said a co-worker talked her into trying ice hockey.
“The first year she asked me if I wanted to come out and give hockey a try — I thought she was nuts!” Hatcher said and laughed. Hatcher said she asked her again the following year, but she was still on the fence.
“The third year I decided ‘OK, I’ll try it.’ So I went out to GHAT and I had a blast!”
Shoreline resident and occupational therapist Shelly Appleton, 44, said she had never ice skated before GHAT.
She said her friend who played ice hockey invited her out to watch one of their games and she “thought it just looked like so much fun.”
Appleton, who is about to begin her second season with the club, said she didn’t know how to stop, so she had to use the wall during her first practice, but said once she had learned to stop, “it’s all been good.”
Appleton said that although winning is nice, it’s not mandatory.
“So even though it’s competitive, it’s not competitive. No one makes you feel bad if you make a mistake. It’s a real easy group of women to play, it’s fun,” and added, “it’s not a fight-league.”
Appleton said she’s a pre-Title IX adult so competitive sports wasn’t available to her growing up.
“Little League just barely opened up for girls when I was Little League age, so there just wasn’t any organized sports for girls when I was a kid — so for me, it’s like ‘hey, I can play organized sports as an adult and I can learn a new sport;’ it’s like being a kid again,” said Appleton.
Morgan said the club shouldn’t be thought of like a Seattle Women’s Hockey Team. There aren’t tryouts or maximum number of players. She said there are always the same core players year after year, but new people join and team members are always shuffled into new and more balanced teams.
“Women of any experience level who want to play hockey join without having to pass any skill or physical fitness tests,” Morgan added. She encourages all women to come to GHAT because it’s a lot of fun and everyone gets a digital photo of themselves in hockey gear and a certificate of accomplishment.
Although Moreano said she’ll probably be very busy over the next few years, she is committed to making time for SWHC “because it’s so much fun!”
Tara Fuller is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.
This year’s Give Hockey a Try event will be today at Castle Ice Arena in Renton from 10:15-11:15 a.m. Parking is free. Participants should arrive 30 minutes early. The address is 12620 164th Ave. S.E.; 425-254-8750.
For questions regarding GHAT or SWHC, call Joan Morgan at 206-839-4704 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and leave your phone number.
For those not able to make the GHAT event, SWHC offers one free practice in which you can skate with a team. The 2008-09 hockey season runs from September to March.
Full club membership costs $650 and includes all full-club practices and team practices; all home and away game ice and all tournament registration fees. Practice-only membership is about half the price of full membership and includes any three practice sessions every two weeks. Practice members may play in a game for $15 and $35 per tournament as bench space permits. A goalie membership costs about $50 and except for voting privileges, it offers the same perks as does a full-club membership. In addition to membership dues, there is a non-refundable SWHC registration fee of $75.