Women on the rink

cutsy Beth O'Connor

Ice hockey is known as a rough and tumble sport, probably best suited to those among us with younger, more resilient bodies. But hockey for adults is thriving on the Island, and some players partake from July through March, the months when the MV Arena is open.

Sporting white and purple jerseys with an osprey on the front, the players on the Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Ice Hockey team call themselves The Ospreys, and are proud of their dynamic squad. “Our team is anywhere between 20- and 60-year-old women. The average age is about early 30s,” said Pavla Rego, co-captain along with Angie Grant. “It’s also made up of women from all sorts of different fields of occupations. Some of us are at home with little kids, some are teachers, and some are landscapers, and we just met from playing hockey together.”

Girls’ ice hockey is one of the fastest growing women’s sports in the world, growing by 350 percent within the last 10 years, according to an online source.

“We’ve been in existence for almost 10 years,” Ms. Rego said. “We practice for one hour every week on Fridays. We usually do some drills and scrimmage during practices.”

Practices are roughly an hour. Most team members are very committed to playing the game from the start of the season to the finish, Ms. Rego explained. “This year we’re struggling with the numbers,” she said. “We have some injuries, some [women] are pregnant, and some have retired, so we have had a hard time getting it together this fall and winter. Hopefully we’ll get some new blood to come join us.”

The season is from about late October until the end of March. If there is really good attendance, there’s a possibility they’ll continue during the summer.

“The women’s ice hockey league is always looking for more women who want to give it a try,” said Beth O’Connor, hockey coordinator of the adult leagues. “There is a coach, so you do get instruction, and you also learn the basics of hockey.”

Each player is required to purchase hockey sticks, skates, helmets, and kneepads.

She explained that some of the women have skated since they were youngsters, while others have taken it up recently. “Some girls who have joined have played on their high school team,” Ms. O’Connor said, “but it’s also made up of people who have moved to the Island or have played college hockey as well.”

Sometimes hockey gets put on the back burner; it can get tough when you have a family, and just with life in general,” Ms. O’Connor said.

The only significant difference between men and women’s ice hockey is that body checking is prohibited on women’s teams.

The Ospreys compete against other Cape Cod teams, and the schedule includes some games off-Island, usually at the Falmouth or Bourne rinks. “At the end of March we go to a tournament in Norwich, Connecticut,” Ms. O’Connor said. There are anywhere from 6 to 10 teams from all over New England that play at the Norwich tournament.

“We have a pretty good bond. If you have something that you do and like, you get that instant bond – it’s nice to get away to the tournaments because that’s where we bond the most,” Ms. Rego said. “From next year on we will try to host one tournament here. That way we’ll play in two tournaments during the ­season.”

She added, “For me, it’s fun playing hockey with women who love it just as much as I do. It’s a common interest between us, and it’s also a nice competitive and team sport. I’m a mom at home and most of these women work, so if it weren’t for hockey some of these women I would never even have come across.”

Also offered at the M.V. Arena are men’s A and B teams, seniors, intermediate, and novice teams in addition to the women’s league.

To sign up for the Women’s Ice Hockey team, contact Beth O’Connor at 774-521-9870.

Caitlyn Clark, a senior at the M.V. Regional High School, is an intern at The Times.