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Greenfield ice hockey clinic creates unique opportunity for women to learn the game

  • Members of the women’s ice hockey clinic after their practice, from left to right: Kay Cowperthwait, Jill Fleming, Jada Jurek, Lisa Goldsmith, Ann Brewer, Susan Pincus, Whitney Robbins, Sarah Burkart, Katherine Hand and Katy Robbins, on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Collins-Moylan Skating Arena in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Jada Jurek, from left, Ann Brewer, and Sarah Burkart break down their gear after participating in the women’s ice hockey clinic on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Collins-Moylan Skating Arena in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Ann Brewer, from left, Kay Cowperthwait, and Jada Jurek, face off during the women’s ice hockey clinic, on Feb. 28, at the Collins-Moylan Skating Arena in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Instructor Kay Cowperthwait sets up a skating drill during the women’s ice hockey clinic, on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Collins-Moylan Skating Arena in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Participants of the women’s ice hockey clinic scrimage at the end of their practice, on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Collins-Moylan Skating Arena in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Whitney Robbins runs through a skating drill during the women’s ice hockey clinic, on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Collins-Moylan Skating Arena in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Katherine Hand runs through a stick handling drill during the women’s ice hockey clinic, on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Collins-Moylan Skating Arena in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Lisa Goldsmith practices her stickhandling skills during the women’s ice hockey clinic, on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Collins-Moylan Skating Arena in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Participants of the women’s ice hockey clinic scrimage at the end of their practice, on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Collins-Moylan Skating Arena in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Instructor Kay Cowperthwait, left, demonstrates techniques for a face off with Whitney Robbins during the women’s ice hockey clinic, on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Collins-Moylan Skating Arena in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Instructor Kay Cowperthwait during the women’s ice hockey clinic, on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Collins-Moylan Skating Arena in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little



Recorder Staff
Friday, March 09, 2018

As a student at Lowell High School, Karen “Rudy” Renaud wished she had a chance to play ice hockey, which was only offered to boys at the time.

“I was kind of stuck with figure skating, (but) it wasn’t my thing,” she said. “I was always envious of the boys playing hockey.”

So when Renaud, 49, heard that a women’s ice hockey clinic was offered at the Collins-Moylan Skating Arena in Greenfield, she leapt at the chance to pick up the sport.

Renaud is one of 10 to 15 skaters who attend the clinic regularly, where they learn basic skating and stickhandling skills. The program was started in 2003 by Kay Cowperthwait, former varsity women’s ice hockey coach at Amherst College, and is held every Wednesday night from October to March.

“It’s a mix of skating and stickhandling, passing, shooting, we usually do some games — so it’s sort of a little bit of everything,” Cowperthwait said. “It's only 50 minutes, so it’s sort of quick. Each week is a mix of all kinds of different skills.”

The clinic is open to anyone ages 14 and up, but Cowperthwait said many participants begin as older adults. In fact, she said several women in the program have children who play hockey, and became interested in the sport after bringing their children to practices and games.

“There’s a real range of ages, too,” Cowperthwait said. “One of our goalies on the Vipers right now is 70 years old and we have high school girls. I think there’s a girl in the clinic now who’s 13 or 14.”

Participants’ skills on the ice also vary widely. The program accepts everyone from total beginners to members of the Pioneer Valley Vipers — Greenfield’s women’s hockey team.

Cowperthwait said she sees a lot more interest around the time of the winter Olympics. 

Hilary Price, 48, of Florence, rediscovered the sport about 10 years ago after speaking with a close friend in Burlington, Vt., who had recently picked up hockey. Price had played hockey for one year in high school, but said the sport became tainted for her by an inappropriate male coach.

After moving back to the area from California, Price decided to join the women’s program in Greenfield, using the skates she still had from high school.

“I remember kind of teetering my way — at this point it had been 20 years since high school — and opening up the door and Kay coming over and being so friendly and so nice,” she said. “I started to take the skills clinic and replaced kind of that bad taste in my mouth with lots of happy occasions I was building by myself and with this group of women. It was really fun, and it’s been also really fun to go from being a Labrador Retriever on a hardwood floor, scrambling, scrambling, scrambling, to getting better at something.”

In addition to attending the weekly skills clinic, Price also plays as a member of the Vipers team. She said the group’s camaraderie is fantastic, and she also enjoys the atmosphere in the rink.

“After all that hockey, it’s like you’ve shaken the Etch-A-Sketch and your brain is calm, clear, and you just have that happy high,” she said.

Cowperthwait has been playing hockey since she was seven or eight, but said she admires those who pick up the sport later in life. A unique challenge of ice hockey is that players have to learn how to skate before they can play. 

“If you were to pick up basketball or soccer, you already know how to run and you have to figure out the shooting skills or the passing skills,” Cowperthwait said, adding that she enjoys watching the women in her clinic begin to shift their focus from skating to other skills, like passing and shooting.

“You can see the progression happening once they get more comfortable in their skates,” she said.  ”If you’re older, your nervous system isn’t used to that kind of intense challenge, so it’s a whole new skill to pick up.”

For Renaud, the goal isn’t to play in the Olympics. She said her only aspirations are to get through the clinic in one piece and become a better player.

“Falling down isn’t what it used to be when I was 25, so it takes a little while to recover. The first night we were there, I think I fell three times and I was feeling it for like three or four days, but that’s also not going to stop me,” she said.

Cowperthwait, who is also a pilates instructor, said she has a 90-year-old client who grew up in Minnesota, where she would play pond hockey with the boys — tucking her ponytail into her helmet so they wouldn’t realize she was a girl.

“I hear a lot of stories like that,” Cowperthwait said. “There are even more opportunities now to come out and learn to play the game, which I personally think is the best game in the world.”

For more information about the clinic, visit http://bit.ly/2tx5avq.