2019-01-17 / Around Town

Women’s Hockey Club – The Goal Is Fun

By Josh Krueger

Thais Jackson maneuvers for a shot in front of goalie Jennifer Brigham. Thais Jackson maneuvers for a shot in front of goalie Jennifer Brigham. They’ve had a 12-year-old skating alongside a 60-year-old, along with women who have played quite a bit of organized hockey and some who haven’t played a minute. All are welcomed with open arms, and a friendly hand should they fall, which most do.

“It’s a kinder, gentler kind of [club],” said Beth Jackson, a Portsmouth resident and one of the organizers of the Aquidneck Island Women’s Hockey Club. “When we fall, [and] it’s not if we fall, it’s when we fall, we help each other up.”

The club, which has been operating for more than a decade, plays on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 7:20 p.m. on the back rink at St. George’s School.

“Sometimes, we play four-on-four, sometimes we have no subs, like today, and sometimes we have two subs per team,” Jackson said. “We do need more people, though, because the more people that come, the cheaper the ice is for all of us.”

Kristina Leggett and Missy Lefebvre wait for a faceoff. (Photos by Jennifer Carter) Kristina Leggett and Missy Lefebvre wait for a faceoff. (Photos by Jennifer Carter) Players can pay by the season, which is less expensive, or pay a sub rate. “For USA Hockey insurance, we need people to give us advance notice to get their USA Hockey number on the roster,” Jackson said. “But then it’s a come-as-you-may type of thing.”

Those with playing experience are encouraged to join, but even novices are welcome.

“It’s all levels, beginner to, I don’t think we have advanced, but intermediate,” Jackson said. “Occasionally, we’ll get the youth ringers that come out to play.”

The age range is as wide as the playing ability.

“My daughter, Thais, is 12, and two years ago we had a 60-yearold woman who’d never skated before,” Jackson said. “I was so proud of her, and she had a blast.”

The club is nothing if not fun, according to Niamh Bohan, a Newport resident who runs the club with Jackson.

“Nobody comes and has a bad time,” she said. “Everybody’s out there, even the beginner, big smile on their face the whole time.”

And nobody picks on newcomers.

“If we know somebody’s a beginner, and some of us have played a little longer, we’ll pass them the puck, we’ll let them skate with it,” said Missy Lefebvre, a Newport resident and club regular.

Having the Newport County Youth Hockey League teams practice and play in the same building has been beneficial to the women’s club. Sometimes, women will play on the back rink while their kids are skating on the main rink.

“We have some that are parents of kids in youth sports who have done family free skate, and they borrow their husband’s gear and come try it for the first time, and then they’re hooked,” Jackson said. “We had one figure skater who was amazing. She was the best skater of all of us. We’ve probably even had a couple people join who can’t really skate, but that’s not really a prerequisite.”

Men are not allowed to play, but boys can if they’re willing to play goal.

“They’re just playing for fun,” Jackson said. “But this year we’ve been blessed with two women goalies.”

Aside from the occasional youth players that take the ice, many in the club have been playing only sporadically since high school.

“I grew up in Michigan, and my mom flooded the backyard so I could skate,” Jackson said. “But hockey was not a girls sport until my junior year of high school, so I played two years and then didn’t play for 25 years until we moved here.

“Then I learned about this and have played for 10 or 12 years. So, I’m probably like a Squirt B [10-and under] in ability, if you count the number of hours I’ve played.”

Bohan was a four-year player at Portsmouth Abbey School, which requires students to play sports.

“All of the field hockey girls said, ‘You have to try [ice] hockey, it’s so much fun,’ she said. “We lost every game except for one in my entire high school career, and we just had the best time.”

Lefebvre, who grew up in North Smithfield, played youth hockey in Burrillville. She played into her teens and then had an on-again-off-again relationship with the sport. She played with the Rhode Island Panthers and Providence Lady Reds club teams before taking a hiatus of about 10 years. She’s been playing with the Aquidneck Island Women’s Hockey Club the past two seasons.

“It reminds me of one of my yoga teachers,” Lefebvre said. “Are you teachable? And do you have a sense of humor? I feel like it’s kind of similar here.”

The more experienced players are there to help the greener skaters improve, and if they play consistently, progress is undeniable.

“You don’t have this sort of arced progression of being able to get better at something as an adult the way you do as a kid in school and sports,” Bohan said. “So, it’s nice to have that experience. At the end of the season, you have a shot, and you didn’t have a shot at the beginning of the season, or you can skate backwards when you couldn’t skate backwards. You see that progression and it’s fulfilling. It’s a really great group of women who are super supportive of each other in the locker room and on the ice.”

Women interested in playing, regardless of skill level, should email aiwomenshockey@gmail.com.

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