Kristen Lodge: Women take to the ice in Fraser
By day Kristie DeLay is showing people houses for sale; by night she is showing opponents her slapshot. She is 5 feet, 2 inches tall, a mother of two, and a banker’s wife – not your typical hockey player.DeLay, of Granby, started playing in a Denver Women’s hockey league in Arvada after her family had moved to Granby. “It was fun and just a great way to jump in. I’m hooked. I started watching the Avalanche and was motivated,” she said. “It then occurred to me, you don’t have to be 6-foot and weigh 200 pounds to be a hockey player.” Initially, she borrowed hockey equipment to see if she liked the sport. She drove to Denver to attend clinics, play, and practice. In a few short weeks, she signed up for a tournament. After having a second child, DeLay took a break from driving to Denver for 10 p.m. play times. Now, she no longer has to make the trek over Berthoud Pass to seek out the game she loves; there is a women’s league in Fraser, thanks to Hot Sulphur Springs resident Michelle Cowardin.On the ice in FraserCowardin approached the Fraser Valley Recreation District and proposed the women’s hockey team. She also got help organizing the team from the Fraser Valley Hockey Association.Every Tuesday at 8:15 p.m., 15 women and three coaches practice ice hockey on the IceBox ice rink at the Fraser Valley Sports Complex. And, they are looking for more women to join. The cost is $5 per night.John Cowardin, Kyle Rupin, and Steve Reeves are coaches, and Michelle Cowardin hopes in a few years there will be enough women players to field four in-house teams in a league within the Fraser Valley Hockey Association. The goal of this group is to promote the game of ice hockey and to encourage women in Grand County to play the sport by providing a fun and supportive experience. The long term goal is to encourage new players to join while creating more of a competitive league as skill level and interest increases, said Cowardin.The season is typically mid-November to early March, depending on weather. This past year, DeLay’s 5-year-old son started playing hockey. She watched him play and knew she had to start again.”I saw the signs that a women’s team was forming. The first night playing in the women’s league, I was invited to play in a co-ed game. I never played with men before,” she said. “It was a faster-paced game and I got in the way of two shots – and they hurt.”In adult hockey league, there is no checking, but DeLay said there is contact when you are down in the boards and fighting for the puck. The biggest hang-up for women is the equipment, Delay said. There are one to two sets of gear available to loan to new players who aren’t able to make the initial investment but who would like to try the sport, Cowardin said. Another option is to purchase used gear at stores such as Winter Park Trading Company or Play It Again Sports in Denver. At the IceBox, there are skates and helmets available for women to use.The minimum gear needed to play is an approved hockey helmet, hockey gloves, ice hockey stick, shin pads, elbow pads, and skates. Additional equipment includes breezers (pants) and shoulder pads. “This women’s team is a very welcoming group,” DeLay said. “I would caution you; once you get hockey in your blood, you can’t get it out. There is a culture and camaraderie with hockey that is different from other sports, so be forewarned.”I thought I could live without it, but when I was at the arena, I knew I was kidding myself.” All abilities are invited to come out to the IceBox rink on Tuesday nights. Cowardin encourages all ages.”There are women in their late 20s to mid-50s playing on the team. Some have played before, and some have not,” Cowardin said.She recommends practice sessions such as Stick & Puck and Open Skate at the IceBox Ice Rink in addition to playing on Tuesday nights. “The women’s league is a place where you are playing against women in a non-threatening, supportive environment,” she said. “And, there are some cool women who like to play hockey.”Be dressed and ready to play at 8:15 p.m.
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