The Boston College women's ice hockey team poses for a picture with members of a Needham youth league after the Eagles' March 2 game in Conte Forum, which was also the setting for a reunion of former players. (Photo courtesy Linda Davis)
"We didn't have a lot of formal or organized playing experience," said Jennifer (Lynch) Kiley '88, "We played for the love of it, and it was a ball."
Kiley and her fellow alumnae had an opportunity to share memories, cheer on their successors and provide encouragement to the next generation of female hockey players when they attended the March 2 BC-Providence game at Conte Forum. The Friends of Boston College Women's Hockey organized a post-game reunion and open skate on the Conte ice, whose participants included girls from area youth hockey leagues.
"There were about 60 people skating, and overall we had a very nice mix of alumnae, parents, family, friends and kids," said co-organizer Linda Davis, whose goaltending daughter Lisa '05 was a three-time winner of Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week honors this season.
The BC event offers a further indication that hockey is well on its way to joining basketball as a popular women's collegiate sport. Last year saw the first-ever NCAA women's hockey championship game, with 51 teams in three divisions competing for the title; 20 years ago, only 16 schools fielded teams. Exposure in the Olympics also has helped to bring women's hockey into the limelight.
"It was such a great experience to be at Conte, to see the enthusiasm and support, and to know the interest is growing," said Sally Driscoll '89, who brought along to the reunion two 12-year-olds from the team she coaches in Milton.
"When your goal is to strengthen girl's hockey, it's important to take the kids to a college game, so they can see what it's like to play at that level."
BC lost the March 2 game, 4-1, but shocked Providence, 1-0, the next day on the Friars' home ice. It was the first time the Eagles had ever beaten Providence since the women's program became a varsity sport. BC finished the regular season with a 9-18-4 mark.
The team has not enjoyed many winning seasons in its history - the Eagles went 15-10-1 in 1995-96, its second year of varsity play, and no official club sport records exist - but that has never stopped the likes of Kiley or Driscoll from donning skates.
Laughing at their indulgence in "war stories," the two recalled how, prior to the opening of Conte in 1988, the team used to practice at off-campus venues such as the MDC rink in Watertown - at 11 p.m. ("You'd go have your social life, then go work out," quipped Kiley.) Joining as a sophomore, Kiley found herself serving as chauffeur, driving several teammates to road games in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. The next year, the Athletic Association lent them vans, she says.
The women's team also had to depend on used jerseys and other equipment from the men's team. This arrangement may or may not have been the reason why, as Kiley recounts, the 1988 Sub Turri ran photos from the men's games on her team's page.
"I guess they figured no one would spot the difference," she said.
Fewer women's teams need wear hand-me-downs nowadays, and more players are arriving at college with some prior competitive experience than in Kiley and Driscoll's time. Driscoll, whose family established a scholarship supporting men's and women's hockey at BC, cut her hockey teeth by being pressed into a service as a goalie for her two brothers. She only joined the team at the urging of her roommate, a former figure skater who had decided to take up the sport.
"We had a wide range of skill levels - maybe a few who'd been in a league, but a lot more were pond players," said Kiley. "Often, the difference between teams back then was a matter of having three or four players who were experienced. Unfortunately for us, quite a few of the teams we played had those three or four."
As they see nieces and neighbor's daughters - and their own daughters - take up the game at earlier ages and in greater numbers than in the past, BC hockey alumnae say they look forward to more gatherings such as the March 2 event.
"I do hope we can do this on a regular basis," said Kiley. "There were some alumni games the first few years after I graduated, but with careers and families it became harder to do. Maybe this new generation of hockey players will bring us together more often."
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