Fans at the University of Maine don’t like hockey as much as I thought they did. For the women’s hockey team, that means small crowds, early ice time and under-publicized games. After viewing a few women’s hockey games I haven’t seen much of a difference in on-ice heroics. Greg Moore scored a top-shelf game winner against St. Lawrence. Kate Sunstrum scored a would-be game-winner against Wayne State. Jimmy Howard was lights-out as well versus Merrimack in Hockey East action. Rachel Gettings was lights out versus Vermont in the season opener. Last year’s seniors Prestin Ryan and Todd Jackson left to pursue hockey opportunities in the Nation Hockey League. Last year’s seniors Meagan Aarts and Karen Droog left to pursue hockey opportunities in the National Women’s Hockey League.
So, what’s the difference? First and foremost, the men’s team is allowed body contact by NCAA regulations. Second, there is a difference in the speed of gameplay. Third and final difference is Bananas does a striptease at men’s game. Obviously, if the women’s team were to play the men’s team in a game of competitive hockey, the men’s team would beat up on our women’s team. However, this can’t be why people don’t watch games.
Big checks aren’t even that much a part of NCAA men’s hockey. Teams in the NCAA focus in on speed, skill and endurance. Coach Whitehead isn’t just sending goons out on the ice. Sure, our guys can throw checks when necessary, but it’s not like we’re going to see big hits. I line up to see Murphy thread the needle, Howard pull a puck out of the net, and Moore go top shelf, not to see our guys drop the gloves. For the women’s game, however, I don’t have to line up to see Corriveau thread the needle, Gettings do the splits, or Sundstrum going top-shelf.
Where have our female Black Bear hockey players gone wrong? I really don’t know. They may not provide as upbeat a game as the men’s team, but their games are as pure as watching any amateur sport. Maybe the problem doesn’t lie in the heart of the players at all. Maybe it lies in the heart of the fans.