February 6, 2009

One of the Girls

I have been a hard core hockey fan for most of my life. I have had season tickets to two different NHL teams. I played hockey from about the age of thirteen. My love for hockey led me to work at ice rinks in high school and college, and much of my college education was paid for by driving a Zamboni.

I have coached hockey at a number of levels - mostly for adult recreational leagues - and I really like coaching. At that level, if you can develop a rapport with your team, you can make it worthwhile. If they don't respect you as a coach, it can be frustrating.

I realized that coaching men was, for the most part, a waste of time, because all the guys thought they knew as much as I did. Turned out they didn't, but what mattered was whether they respected me, and usually they didn't.

When I first moved to Alaska, I found out that there was a very large women's hockey group in Fairbanks, and some of my college friends played. They needed a coach, so I decided to volunteer.

I did this for several years, and I really enjoyed it. I had one team that was particularly fun, because while they weren't terribly talented as individuals, they were willing to go to regular practices, and we were able to put together some disciplined play. Add to it that I was a grad student at the time and was a TA in a class where I had six NCAA hockey players as students, I was able to put together some very interesting practices.

My routine for the games was to get everyone dressed with about ten minutes before the game, and then go into the locker room and go over the game plan with them. Invariably someone would be late, so I would be talking about the upcoming game, and someone would come in and would be getting dressed while I was in there talking. I was always as respectful as I could be - if I had been asked to leave, I certainly would have... but there were some alcoves and nooks in the locker room, so a woman player could get dressed without exposing herself to me.

After the games I would follow the team into the locker room and talk for a minute or two, and then leave them to change... But some of the women would just start peeling jerseys and pads off with me standing right there. More than once I went to excuse myself as someone got a little more undressed than I thought they would be comfortable with, and I was immediately reassured that it was fine for me to stay.

I became very good friends with our goalie, and she was the glue of the team. She was a rather butch lesbian woman, but she knew me well enough to know that I got along very well in the women's community. Our team exceeded expectations by quite a bit that season, and while we didn't do too well in the post-season tournament, my team and I had developed quite a bond.

At the end of the season, my team decided to get me a gift, and I was touched. My friend, the goalie, got up before the entire team and handed me plaque with a team picture, and a certificate that made me an "Honorary Lesbian." It got quite the chuckle from everyone.

My goalie friend ended up renting a room from me, and lived in my house for several years. I coached some other teams of hers, including one that won a statewide tournament.

When I moved to Anchorage, she ended up moving to Georgia, and we lost touch, though occasionally I would get an email or two from her.

Recently I started getting more active on Facebook, and my friend found me, and we started a bit of a correspondence. She is doing very well in Georgia. This evening, when I got home, I checked into Facebook, and my friend had sent me a request that I be included in her "My Girls" list.

So now I am "One of her Girls."

It is actually kinda flattering.

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