The locker room at the Edora Pool Ice Center fills up with girls and giant equipment bags as the red-eyed, yawning members of the CSU women’s ice hockey team get dressed for their 5:30 a.m. practice.
Before practice, now starting thirty minutes earlier than the practices at the start of the season, grumblings can be heard about which class they are going to sleep through since hockey has increasingly left them sleep and study time deprived.
Despite the locker room protests, the yet unproven group of girls hits the ice with enthusiasm and vigor.
Established this year as an official club sport, the women’s ice hockey team has a long road ahead of them as one of the only teams of its kind in the region. CU-Boulder is the only other Colorado university team in its division.
“I expect the first part of this season is going to be a little rough, but as we keep going it should get better,” said Jill Kana, a junior family and consumer sciences education major. “At this point none of us really know what to expect. We’re all rookies.”
There are several things that the girls’ coach, Jimmy Welte, is working on this season. One main focus is making sure all the players get the fundamentals of hockey down since there is an assortment of skill levels on the team, Welte said. But the team has some great potential, he said.
“Our greatest strength is our leadership,” Welte said. “Some of the girls have gone above and beyond. This is going to be a great building year for us. We are headed in the right direction.”
Kana created the team along with the help of sophomore Katherine Hess and senior Katie Gerow over the course of the last two years.
All three women came from a background strongly rooted in the sport.
“My brothers have played since they could skate, and I started out figure skating,” said Hess, a human development and family studies major. “I used to play soccer, but in Telluride hockey was just around. We were better at it than soccer.”
Gerow, a human development and family studies major, grew up in Detroit where hockey is a much bigger sport, she said, adding how gratifying it has been to bring hockey west to CSU women.
Gerow and Kana, who are vice president and president as well as co-captains, went through copious amounts of paperwork to become a team. The team spent last year as a student organization and finally, after presenting to the sport clubs governing board, became a club sport this year.
With everyone on the team still getting to know each other, it will take a while to learn the team’s strengths and weaknesses, Hess said.
“We’re getting used to each other,” Hess said. “There are a lot of personalities on the team. As we get to know each other better, we’ll start playing better.”
Welte, who graduated in 2008 with a degree in business administration, said another main goal is to gel the team together.
“By the end of the season, I want them to be able to rely on each other, both as a team and in their personal lives,” Welte said.
Providing a place for girls to play in an area where women are not typically hockey gurus was one of Gerow’s focuses for forming the team and said establishing a sense of community for the girls was a main goal.
This year, CSU joins CU-Boulder, the University of Denver and Colorado College as schools in the state that have women’s ice hockey, with only CU in the same league as CSU.
All of the members are proud to be an official team and wear the CSU Rams logo on their jerseys.
“It has been a dream of mine to start the team,” Gerow said. “Now when I step on the ice in a CSU jersey, there is a sense of pride and ownership knowing I made it happen.”
CSU’s club sports department, which is funded by student fees, allocated $100 to the team this year to establish themselves. The $100, which does not cover one week of practice at EPIC, has been supplemented by donations, fundraising and team dues to cover the cost of games, practices, equipment and travel.
By surviving the season and proving they are a legitimate team, Welte said, they will hopefully be given a larger budget in subsequent years.
“We’re a team that’s going to stick around and become a tradition at CSU,” Welte said.
Members of this year’s team will always have the pride of knowing they endured obstacles not faced by longstanding teams and were able to establish a new CSU legacy.
“I want, 40 years from now, to call Katie and say ‘Let’s go watch a CSU women’s hockey game,'” Kana said. “And we will know that we started it, we were the first, and we gave girls a place to play.”
Staff writer Meagan Templeton-Lynch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.