It's not unusual to enter Treadwell Arena on any given night and hear the clacking of hockey sticks, the slicing of skate blades on the ice and the shouts from enthusiastic players, coaches and supporters on the sidelines. But on Sunday nights at the arena this fall, some of the faces buzzing by on the ice elicit cries not often heard in Juneau's hockey circles.
"Go mommy!" shout kids, their faces pressed against the glass as their mothers skate by.
For two hours on Sunday nights, the Treadwell Arena becomes a place where women take to the ice. The hockey players are part of the women's introductory hockey league, which started its first season on Oct. 5.
Though women have had a definite presence in the world of hockey, most noticeably in co-ed leagues, since Treadwell Arena opened last spring, this is the first league devoted entirely to women and the first to include beginners.
"Since we haven't had a rink in Juneau very long, we figured it would be a perfect opportunity for some of us to come up in hockey together," said Jan Rumble, one of the organizers of the league.
The 55-plus members of the league began practicing with volunteer coaches earlier this month. They play games once a week at either 5:45 or 7 p.m. on Sundays.
"It's a lot of fun and it's a good group," said Rosemary Matt, who plays for the Cheap Skates, one of four teams in the league. Her comments about the league are echoed by her cohorts.
"I love it," said Cindy Cashen, who plays on the as-yet-unnamed gray team.
"It's addicting," said Rumble.
"Everybody just seems to be having such a blast," said Aurah Landau. She and Rumble played on the same co-ed team last year and decided to form the introductory women's league to get more women on the ice.
Each team in the league is balanced between experienced players and beginners, Landau said. Though the experienced players play hard against each other, they lighten up the pressure to let new players learn.
"They're very helpful," said Jeannette Lacey, who plays for the Cheap Skates. "You don't feel self-conscious because there are better players, because everybody is just out there to have a good time and to learn."
The games are played by standard hockey rules, except the women take 15 minutes at the beginning of their play time to warm up and practice. The third period of the games is slightly shortened to compensate for the warm-up.
Men have a role in the league, too. Most teams are coached by men, many of whom are husbands, boyfriends or family members of the players. The goalies for the games also are men, mostly because beginning players don't want to invest in goalie gear.
"There's some good athletes out there," said David McKenna, who coaches a team called BOB, Babes on Blades. "It's refreshing. They're just completely interested and enthusiastic."
The league costs $125 per season, and practices are organized and paid for by individual team members. Players have to provide their own gear, which can cost $250 and more, depending on the quality of gear. Many players have bought skates, pads, helmets and sticks off the Internet, in Whitehorse or from Play It Again Sports in Anchorage.
Skater's Edge, a hockey and figure skating shop that opened last year in Juneau, also sells new and used hockey equipment.
Though enrollment in the league for the fall season is closed, the league will start up again in January, Rumble said.
"We're totally encouraging people who are beginners to come out for that one," she said. "It's still going to be a pretty new sport here in Juneau."
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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