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Hockey Moms Emerge As Leaders in Youth League

A Swampscott mom, the new president of the Salem Swampscott Youth Hockey League, and other moms want to grow the league through player development.

 

These hockey moms are less on the sidelines than the front lines.

In the male dominated world of hockey these moms have major roles, filling five leadership positions in the Salem/Swampscott Youth Hockey League.

They are league President Carmen Henriques of Swampscott, Clerk Lisa Lavoie of Salem, Treasurer Linda Gagnon of Salem, operations head Bridget McGuiness of Lynn and fundraiser Patty Remon of Salem.

The female presence comes with new ideas, determination and anxiety.

Carmen became league president in June and, several weeks ago, was nervous about an upcoming meeting — the first district meeting, a gathering for representatives from area youth hockey leagues.

She figured to be in the clear minority as a woman.

"I do not know what to expect," she said in her English accent. She's originally from Liverpool, no hotbed for ice hockey.

Carmen sat at a table with another hockey mom, Margot Abels, just off the ice in the old-school Connery Rink in Lynn. 

On the other side of the glass, Carmen's 10-year-old son, Christopher, practiced with the Blades hockey team.

Margot's partner, Bridget McGuiness, coaches the Blades, and their daughter, Makayla Abels-McGuiness, 8, plays on the team.

Scraping skates, banging sticks and pucks thudding off the boards mingled with the players' and coaches' voices.

Carmen and the other moms are excited about the challenge of growing the league. It has four teams of players aged 5-16, a total of 55 kids, three of them girls.

But ideas about how to nudge the culture in a more team oriented, more skill oriented and a less macho direction might go against the grain of traditional New England hockey.

Hockey in New England comes with toughness. It's early mornings and ice. It's hip checks and a sport where you give as well as you get. Sometimes the gloves drop.

Several of the moms said their hockey philosophy aligns with that of the governing body for youth hockey in the USA, which wants hockey to become more like the European model where skill trumps brawn.

Margot and Carmen pointed to an incident last spring that embodied the tension between two opposing views of the sport.

In what became a viral video, a  hockey mom in Marlborough was shown coming on the ice, pocketbook in hand, to yell at an official for failing to stop a fight between players.

Bridget said later that roughness is a part of the sport.

But the sport can be rough and not violent, she said.

There is much kids can gain from playing hockey beyond gaining the respect that comes from playing a rough sport. These include exercise, being part of a team and building skills, the moms said.

Gerrit Bradley of Swampscott, father of one of the three girls in the Salem Swampscott league, 9-year-old Willa, weighed in on women and hockey.

"I think women in leadership positions give a good perspective to the league," he said, "focusing on sportsmanship, teamwork and fun rather than winning at all costs."

Willa thinks more girls should play hockey.

"Because it's a really fun sport," she said.

A teammate of Willa's, Christopher Henriques, the league president's son, says he's fine with women being involved in the leadership of youth hockey.

"But I think dads should be involved, too," he said.

 

Molly September 28, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Go Carmen!

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