February 14, 2007

True Love Lies in a Stick and Skates

Print More

Sitting near the rafters in Section A of Lynah Rink two Saturdays ago, I found myself cheering rabidly against Cornell.

Before you question my Lynah Faith, let me explain that the game in question was one between the Cornell women’s club hockey team and my mother’s senior women’s team, the Ithaca Sirens.

Forget BU and Harvard too, there is nothing like screaming, “Kick her ass Mom!” at the top of your lungs.

My mom’s been playing hockey since before junior assistant captain Topher Scott of the men’s hockey team was born. She picked up a stick back in the mid-1980s while getting her MBA at the Johnson School where apparently a good forecheck is an important part of financial accounting.

Although having never played before, hockey ran deep in her blood.Her grandmother, Elizabeth Hoy, was a goalie on the 1919 University of Minnesota team and her brother, Jimmy John ’93, was a stick boy for men’s hockey head coach Mike Shafer ’86 during his playing days at Cornell.

In 1992, my mom joined a group of players from around Ithaca and Cornell to form the Ithaca Sirens. A reference to Homer’s Odyssey, the name was unfortunately already taken by a now-closed strip club in nearby McLean, N.Y. Worries over a potential mix-up were put to rest, however, when my father helpfully quipped, “But who would pay to see you guys take off your clothes?”

Having outlived exotic dancers, the Sirens faced a tougher task two weekends ago taking on Cornell’s club team. The game carried overtones of a grudge match, as the Sirens’ had scored a last-second goal to secure a 5-5 tie in the two teams’ previous meeting on Nov. 4.

In a fast-paced first period, the Red took the early lead five minutes in when senior captain Amanda Noel lifted a shot top-shelf against Sirens goalie Deb Grantham. Personally, I would have thrown Noel in the box a few minutes earlier for looking at my mom the wrong way, but when your dad, Andy Noel, is the Athletic Director at Cornell I guess you’re going to get a few calls.

To my delight, the Sirens’ Laura Piechowski scored the equalizer at the 11:07 mark, but senior Annie Martyr picked up her second assist of the day on a smart pass to junior Daphne Kiplinger, who put the Red up 2-1 at the first break.

With former assistant field hockey coach and Canadian export Josette Babineau dominating faceoffs, I was convinced the Sirens would make a run. Unfortunately, a late goal in the final minute of the period by senior assistant captain Emily Clark gave Cornell a comfortable 3-1 lead.

The Sirens would voutshoot the Red, 9-7, in the final period, but junior goalie Chelsea Acosta had all the answers in a performance reminiscent of Julie “The Cat” Gaffney in D2: The Mighty Ducks. Senior Erin Haley capped off the scoring on the day, capitalizing on a failed clearance to put the Red ahead by a final margin of 4-1.

Crushed, I asked Haley what had made the difference in Cornell’s convincing win.

“I liked to go up and snuggle against them to trigger their maternal instincts,” she said. “I think it makes us more potent.”

Despite the obvious differences in age and number of dependants between the two teams, what impressed me most about the players were their similarities.

These women play hockey because they love the game. They play for each other and for themselves. It’s a chance to forget about the demands of life and work and to find an escape between lines of blue and red. Sure, it may mean giving up an episode of Grey’s Anatomy (or Desperate Housewives if you’re my mom), but that’s what TiVo is for.

Hockey is a lifestyle and the Sirens have always been a large part of my mom’s life and for that matter, mine. Pretty much everything I know about women can be traced back to the Sirens. It’s a little known fact, but at the age of 10 I was engaged to the Siren’s star forward, Tara Bricker ’92— a former coach of several of the Cornell club team’s current players. It seemed like a match made in heaven. My mom was looking for a strong winger to fill out the roster at our annual Thanksgiving family hockey game, and, well, I was looking for someone who could drive. However, one day I noticed that my engagement ring — a cherry Ring Pop — had disappeared. Things went south from there and although Bricker missed the game against Cornell with a supposedly injured knee, I’m pretty sure it was really a broken heart.

While I never got my ring back, the Sirens taught me a lot about life and fast women. So this Valentine’s Day skip the flowers and chocolate, get your significant other a stick and some skates because if there’s one thing anyone who has played hockey knows, it’s all about love. And if there’s one thing I want my mom to know, it’s that I love her more than anything in the world. Happy Valentine’s Day mom.