The continuous triumphs of raising girls
I was driving my three girls home from the Queens Botanical Gardens and as I merged onto a highway overpass that would take us home, our van overlooked some athletic fields where several teams were playing soccer.
“Daddy, do girls play soccer?” one of my three daughters asked.
“Yes, of course,” I said.
“Then I want to be a soccer player!” she said
“Yes, me too!” one of her sisters chimed in.
They expounded on their plans to dominate the sport of soccer. I reminded them they could play both soccer and hockey and they agreed that they could excel at both sports.
What struck me about this conversation was not my girls’ enthusiasm for soccer, but that they thought, at their early age, that they could be limited because they were girls. It was heartbreaking that in just over four years, they could conceive of being constrained in what games they play.
It was an interesting discovery that before they were three years old, my daughters craved representation of females in media; they were very conscious of what characters were in front of them. Most cartoon characters are boys, and the female characters in most popular children’s television are either princesses or fashion-obsessed mice. There are some notable exceptions (Dora the Explorer and Doc McStuffins), but even in cartoons with some positive female role models, they are usually a small part of the larger action.
This is one of the reasons my wife and I bring our girls to professional women’s hockey. The Metropolitan Riveters of the National Women’s Hockey League have been a must-see for our family. Besides being a fun sport to watch, women’s professional hockey, by the very fact of its existence, provides an invaluable service for the parents of girls. Our daughters can see women held in high esteem and being celebrated for hard work in their chosen field.
While my wife is a stay-at-home Mom for now, she is active in local civic affairs and has a leadership role in her local Community Supported Agriculture Group. We like to think that we don’t avoid the facts of life but present the world as honestly as possible, but there is no reason our girls should think that there are limits to what sports they can play.
There are efforts underway to have more portrayals of girls in various roles in different media, not just in hockey, but in all of life. People are making their own books, controlling their own art.
A former co-worker who has daughters older than mine said that girls are more likely to drop out of playing sports when they reach age 10; she noted that her oldest daughter made it through that age with her love of sport intact. It was a relief.
While hockey for me is a more interesting sport than soccer, I’m happy to have my girls interested in soccer. It is an easier concept to teach. Everyone knows how to kick a ball and run after it; hockey requires players to be proficient ice skaters to play.
I’m cautious about pushing hockey on my girls too hard, not because I really care if they play hockey, but I’m determined that they remain interested in playing sports.
So yes, girls play soccer and much more. Let it always be so.
The Riveters Bring the Championship Home
New York has another championship to brag about. The Metropolitan Riveters are the National Women’s Hockey League champions. They played for the NWHL’s Isobel Cup this past Sunday.
It was a packed Barnabas Health Hockey House for the final game between the Riveters and the defending champions Buffalo Beauts. The game sold out and was probably oversold, but it happens. We got there about half an hour before the game and by the time we got to the stands there was not a seat to be had. There was a strong contingent of dedicated Buffalo fans there taking up a large area of seating near the visiting bench.
The place we usually go to find seats was completely filled. There was additional seating added on the top walkway of the stands but those were all reserved. But we were directed to the other side of the rink where there were chairs and open space against the Plexiglas. This actually worked out better. Parents pulled chairs up closer to the rink so their kids could stand on the chairs and get a good view. There was also more room for kids to move around and we didn’t have to struggle to keep them sitting or to stop them from kicking people in the back as is an issue with the general admission bench seating. Also, we were closer to where the Riveters emerge from the locker room, allowing our girls to give fist bumps to the team as they made their way to the ice for each period.
The camaraderie among fans that pervaded the season was still in full effect at the final game. We stood with other die-hard Riveters fans and it was great to be closer to the action.
Taking young children to sporting events is a hectic undertaking. One has to keep an eye on the kids at all times, which is not easy when you’re watching a fast-paced championship game.
The game’s one goal was scored in the first period by Alexa Gruschow, who made an amazing diving play that showed why she was named the NWHL’s Most Valuable Player of the season. At one point in the first period, Riveter Madison Packer was down on the ice after being checked from behind by one of the Beauts. This earned Buffalo a 10-minute misconduct penalty on top of a two-minute penalty for hitting from behind. It was no matter though, Packer was back in the game in the second period. Later in the game I saw Harrison Browne take another cheap shot from behind from Buffalo.
We discovered a doll with wings that was close to the media backdrop for the Riveters. With it was a note, claiming the doll was Izzy, who had come from Buffalo to stay with her favorite team but needed the Riveters to retriever her cup. A witty good luck gesture, and it took several readings aloud of the note and the explanation to keep my girls from playing with the doll or going in search of its owner. I tasked them instead with making sure the doll was not disturbed. Someone did move the doll to a more prominent location, but the note, and the good mojo, stayed with the Riveters Nation.
As the final seconds ticked down in the third period, the excitement was palpable and when the final buzzer rang the team piled on starting goalie Katy Fitzgerald. This is the team’s first Isobel Cup championship.
While they currently play in Newark and have forged a partnership with the New Jersey Devils, who now have an ownership stake in the team, the Riveters are a product of New York City. They played their inaugural season in Brooklyn at the Aviator Sports and Events Center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. They began as the New York Riveters and I still have a hat bearing that name.
The Riveters have made great progress as a team and brought new fans to women’s hockey and the NWHL. We can say we were there to see them win their first championship.
The Riveters can win it all
Last year I took my two older daughters to see the National Women’s Hockey League Metropolitan Riveters play two games against the Boston Pride. It was a blast and made us committed Riveters fans.
This coming weekend, the Riveters will be competing in the championship game against the Buffalo Beauts. We will be there to see them play for the Isobel Cup, the NWHL’s championship trophy (named for the Isobel Stanley, daughter of Lord Fredrick Arthur Stanley for whom the NHL’s Stanley Cup is named for).
It has been a great season for the Riveters, and they had a long winning streak that lasted late into the season. The family and I have been to all but one regular season home game, and we traveled to Stamford to see the Riveters pull out a thrilling overtime win against the Connecticut Whale.
We have a regular place that we like to sit for games and it’s near a group of dedicated fans who often ring cowbells. There is Dmitry, a superfan who was the first that I can remember ringing the cowbell – he offered to let one of my girls ring it at the game in Connecticut. There are a few others in the growing cowbell contingent. Also near us is Manpuku the Puppy and his human companion, both dressed to impress. We’ve also sat next to Kelsey Koelzer’s mother a few times and chatted with her about the team. My older daughters have given hugs to Rebecca Russo.
We make a point to bring our daughters to see these games because it’s important that they see women in sports. Even at a very young age girls crave representation in what they see. So much of our culture presents women is nonsense, and the NWHL allows us to go to events where young women are the center of attention in a very positive way.
And it has been a joy to watch the hockey. Madison Packer’s smooth and aggressive style of play is a thing of beauty – she will circle around, almost as if she’s leisurely skating around the rink, and then wind up exactly where she needs to be, taking control of the puck against the boards or winding up in front of the net to score. And I have never seen a player hustle down the ice like Harrison Browne – breaking away ahead of everyone else to drive to the opponent’s net.
This past Sunday, the Riveters shut out the Whale 5-0 to earn their first trip to the final game.
The only team to beat the Riveters so far this year has been Buffalo, who have been playing very well and are the defending champions.
The NWHL has been gaining momentum with every season. This season, the Riveters entered a partnership with the New Jersey Devils, which took a part ownership of the team (that hurts as a Rangers fan but if it’s good for the Riveters, so be it), and the Buffalo Beauts were purchased by the company that own the Buffalo Sabres NHL team. And the cause of women’s hockey was given another great boost this year with the U.S. women taking the gold in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The final game is at the Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark, New Jersey and it’s easily accessible via public transportation. There is ample, affordable parking if you drive. If you like hockey, you won’t be sorry to be there for this big game.
The Greatest Bastards on the Ice
On August 20th 2003 I went to a show at the Knitting Factory, which was then still located in Manhattan, to see a punk rock show. What drew me to the show was that a former Lunachick was playing with her current bands—Squid’s Team Squid—but I was interested to see what other bands were playing.
As Two Man Advantage took the stage, I was prepared to be disappointed. People who wear sports jerseys outside of sporting events tend not to have a lot to offer the world, and now the whole stage was custom-made hockey jerseys. I figured out they were hockey jerseys because one of the guitar players was wearing an old-style goalie’s face mask.
The music kicked in and it was really good, aggressive punk rock that the world needs more of. And by the time lead singer, with ‘Drunk Bastard’ on the back of his jersey—all are numbered ‘69’—hit the stage, I realized this was a band with a sense of humor. Hardcore bands with a good sense of humor are rare, so I settled in to enjoy the show. But I found that even though I had never seen this band before, I was drawn to get close to the stage and join in whatever way possible. I took a few lumps in the mosh pit at that performance if I remember correctly, and it would not be the last time. But I left the Knitting Factory a confirmed Two Man Advantage fan.
Their songs are almost all hockey themed and include “Zamboni Driving Maniac,” “I Got the Puck,” “Hockey Fight,” and “I Had a Dream About Hockey.” The band is so good that listening to Two Man helped get me into watching hockey; going to a Rangers-Red Wings game a few years ago sealed the deal. Hailing from Long Island, most of the band are die-hard Islanders fans, though one of their guitar players, SK8 (“Skate”) is a Rangers fan, and drummer “Coach” supports the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In the intervening years I’ve had the good fortune to not only share the stage with Two Man Advantage but to put out a split 7-inch record with them through my band Blackout Shoppers. We did a short weekend tour with them to promote the record a few years ago and it was a blast. I’ve had many good political and philosophical discussions with The Captain, who has forgotten more about math and music than most people will ever know. Two Man’s drummer, Coach, and lead singer, Spag, DJed my wedding. We visited Spag’s home to plan out the music and it had the most records I’ve ever seen in one place outside of a record store. Spag had the good sense to talk me out of blasting Iron Maiden’s “Aces High” at the reception.
Two Man Advantage began as a one-time performance as a joke at a Halloween party. The band was comprised of people who had played shows together in other bands writing a few songs about hockey.
This past weekend I drove out to Long Island to see one of two shows the band played to celebrate the two-decade mark. I got there just as the very excellent Refuse Resist, who recently celebrated their 10th anniversary as a band in their native Boston, was about to play.
True to keeping their sense of humor, the show began with a recording of the national anthem, to see who among the band members and audience would “take a knee.” A few band members and audience members did so, as Coach gave a preamble joking lamenting how politics had reared its ugly head at their show. Everyone enjoyed the levity of the moment, and no one got offended and left.
It was great to see the Two Man members again and I was at the front of the stage when the show started. I’m not as game for a mosh-pit bruising as I was in 2003, so I enjoyed most of the show from a safer distance, returning to the danger zone only once more later. It reminded me how much I enjoy music and miss making it.
Two Man Advantage played a lot of favorites and a few deep cuts, and did it all with ferocity and sincerity that the world needs more than ever.
Thank you, Two Man Advantage, for 20 awesome years.
Hockey is for girls (and that’s awesome)
My wife was one of the many thousands to participate in the New York Women’s March this past weekend. My social media feeds were dominated with friends and family participating in these marches in New York, Washington D.C. Oakland, New Haven, Atlanta and elsewhere. There was even a march in Antarctica. It turns out women don’t like being insulted by lecherous politicians who count the Miss Universe pageant as foreign policy experience; who knew?
But these marches are not the only route to empowerment. And the Women’s Marches of this past weekend adhere to a strict political agenda that is not for everyone.
But no matter what your politics, you want the women of your tribe to be treated fairly and to be strong. Sports are good for young girls on many levels.
I tried taking my twin daughters to a women’s hockey game earlier this month but the game was canceled due to the weather. This weekend we were able to see the New York Riveters take on the Boston Pride at the Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark, New Jersey. I am pleased to report that the game did not disappoint and that women’s professional hockey is a great place to take young girls to foster their interest in sports.
I want sports to be something my girls know that women do and that is not out of the ordinary. I want women’s pro hockey to be a fact of life and not a novelty and for women’s sports to be appreciated beyond their value to the mostly male sports audience. The National Women’s Hockey League is doing just that. It was great to be a part of the game and to show my girls that female athletes are the rightful center of our attention.
There is parking for only $5 a few blocks from the game. I got my new tickets for the current game with no problem and there is not a bad seat in the house. The Barnabas Health Hockey House is the New Jersey Devils practice facility and it’s attached to the Prudential Center. There are fancy bleachers on one side of the ice so no matter where you sit you are close to the action. We took seats close to the side of the ice because it allowed me to make a quick dash to the restroom with toddlers still getting adjusted to regular toilet use.
Hockey is a fast-paced and exciting game and hockey is the best game for watching with young people. There are two intermissions – great for frequent bathroom and refreshment breaks, and the people working the Riveters games keep it very family friendly.
The games seem to attract a lot of lesbians. There were a lot of rainbow scarves and jerseys at the game and I got the impression that it wasn’t just because there was a special You Can Play promotion going on (favorite t-shirt of the night: a large Best Buy logo that read ‘Best Bi.’). This is a good sign in my view and shows that the league is about quality hockey and not trying to be a cute offshoot of a men’s team. Women’s professional basketball has a large lesbian following also (a lesbian friend once posted a video of a WNBA game online and called it “lesbian porn”) and it’s going strong. Women’s hockey deserves the same level of recognition and I look forward to taking my girls to see the Riveters play at Madison Square Garden someday.
So if you like hockey, go see the New York Riveters play – it makes visiting New Jersey worthwhile.
A Welcome Night in the (New Jersey) Devils’ Lair
Like any parent, I want my girls to grow up to be strong and full of confidence. We’re going to teach them martial arts and as soon as they are old enough to go hunting, they’ll be spending some quality time in the woods with Dad. I want them to be exposed to strong women outside of family members, and to take an interest in sports.
My daughters have taken a liking to hockey thanks to a small video I took of a goal celebration at a recent New York Rangers game. And luckily, there is a local professional women’s hockey team, the New York Riveters. I made up my mind to introduce them to the sport of hockey and purchased tickets for a Riveters game against the Boston Pride. The Riveters play in Newark, New Jersey at the Barnaby’s Health Hockey House, which is attached to the Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils.
Despite a snowstorm that made the roads treacherous, I was determined to get my girls to this game and make hockey fans of them while providing them positive female role models outside of the pop culture poison that’s being shoveled at women most of the time. I kept on checking the Riveters’ web site as well as on social media. I even called the Barnabas Health Hockey House (no one answered). Because I knew a long drive was ahead, I left home two hours before the game was supposed to start.
When I made it through the metal detectors and handed my tickets to the ushers, there was a problem. She told me that I needed to go to a different window to have my tickets reprinted.
Just then a man in a suit approached me and informed me that the New York Riveters game had been canceled. “But you’re in luck,” he said. “How would you like to go to the Devils’ game?”
I said I was up for that and he gave me three tickets to the game that was about to start against the Edmonton Oilers. He gave me the tickets despite the fact that I was wearing a New York Rangers hat and scarf.
This was an amazing stroke of luck. These seats were amazing—the second row behind the penalty box in the club section of the arena that came with free food and drinks. It was a very rare treat indeed. Each of these sets had a face-value ticket price that was more than four times what I spent on three tickets to the Riveters game. It was an amazing up-close view of the action from right along the center line of the ice.
The ushers were incredibly helpful and helped us get to our seats – not easy when you’re juggling concession stand food and two toddlers.
It was a great way to introduce the girls to hockey, though since they are three years old the game did not hold their attention as well as the ice cream and the M&Ms. It was a struggle to keep up with the game and try to stop the girls from climbing all over the seats. People around us were very understanding and it paid off that they are cute and adorable in every way.
The New Jersey Devils have a tradition of chanting “Rangers suck!” at random times during the game, even though they were not facing either New York team. Rangers fans have a tradition of chanting “Potvin sucks,” referencing retired N.Y. Islanders defenseman Denis Potvin.
While I can’t betray the Rangers, it was certainly a nice time at the Devils game and I can’t express enough gratitude to the executive who was so kind and generous and the people working there who were so helpful.
I made hockey fans of my girls, and while that may change next week, I remain a proud and lucky Dad.
Keeping New York cool on the ice
It’s hockey season and the best team to root for in New York is the New York Rangers. I have plenty of Islanders fans friends who disagree, but they can’t hide the fact that the Islanders sold their souls when they agreed to play at the Barclays Center.
But no matter, Rangers games are a great time. Even though tickets are expensive, you can sometimes get good deals. My wife is a superior planner and managed to find a compelling offer for tickets to watch the blue shirts take on the Winnipeg Jets. It involved having to friend someone on Facebook, send money through PayPal and then print out tickets at home, but it was legit and we had real tickets to a nosebleed-level luxury box at Madison Square Garden.
We got to MSG early because the luxury box area was going to have food before the game and we wanted to scarf down as much complimentary food as we could before the first puck dropped. With no mobs of people there, we walked directly one of the metal detectors. I emptied my pockets of all metal objects and walked through but I set off the metal detector anyway. I think it was the metal on my steel-toe boots (Joe Strummer said to always wear shoes you can run in or fight in, and I’m not good at running).
As the man waved his metal detecting wand over my boots, his colleague manning the metal detector took issue with my house keys.
“You can’t bring this in here,” he said, holding a key tool that lives on my keychain. The tool resembles a key but is a multi-tool that includes a bottle opener, two screwdriver heads, and a small blade. It would take you a week to stab someone to death with this blade. If you are immobile enough to be seriously hurt by the blade on my key tool, you are probably going to die soon anyway. I said if I couldn’t take it inside I wanted to check it and pick it up later.
The security guard called over a supervisor, an older man in a suit with an earpiece in his year. He was friendly and handed my keys over to a young woman who took off the key tool, and gave me back my keys. My wife and I followed her to a small security office with a Dutch door. I handed another security guard my I.D. and he wrote down my name and gave me a receipt written out on a baggage claim check. I saw that my small blade was going to be sharing some space on the top of a filing cabinet with a larger knife and one or two very small knives.
We made our way up to where our seats were and found our area. Half of the section was closed off before the game for Al Trautwig to do his pre-game broadcast. I couldn’t hear anything he was saying above all of the noise, but it was fun to see the behind-the-scenes of what is normally a mundane broadcast. Once he was done, everything was packed up quickly and we got seats on bar stools above the seating section. We had to stand to see one of the corners of the rink but otherwise the view was not bad at all.
The game was phenomenal as the Rangers beat Winnipeg five goals to two. Hockey moves at a brisk pace and Madison Square Garden erupts into song whenever the Rangers score a goal. We enjoyed the camaraderie of the fans, the inspirational moves of Dancing Larry and the cool taste of blue shirt victory. During the intermission between the first and second period we got to meet Mark Janssens, who was very friendly and gave autographs and posed for photos with fans.
After the game, we made our way back to the security office and stood in line outside. We had to go into the office one at a time to collect our things once a bored security guard said, “next.” While we were waiting in line, who did we run into but my friend Poppy and his son Mike. What makes this even more interesting is that my wife had seen Poppy just the night before as his daughter Danielle hosted an outstanding art party for my wife and her friends. Our Gotham can be a small and amazing place at times.