Steamboat Springs students start women’s club hockey team at George Washington University
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Not all athletes pursue competing at the NCAA level, but after spending a lifetime in athletics, some feel a void when they enter college.
George Washington University student Madeline Craig-Scheckman, of Steamboat Springs, had hung up her ice hockey skates after her senior year in high school but missed being part of a team.
“I actually reached out to the men’s hockey team because it seemed to me, at first, that women could join it,” Craig-Scheckman said. “Then, I realized it would be hard to get ice time as a woman on the team. So, I kind of tried to start a women’s team my freshman year, and it fell through. We didn’t have the right contacts and information and stuff — it’s hard to start from the beginning.”
Steamboat teammate Libby Lukens came to campus a year later. She expressed interest in the men’s team in August as a sophomore, sending an email to Dave Baratta, assistant coach of the George Washington University men’s hockey team.
Little did the two of them know that seven other women had done the same thing.
“Basically, every year we get two to three girls that will contact the team interested in playing,” Baratta said. “We invite them to try out with the guys, but very few take us up on that. When I saw the numbers (of women) we had, I got them in an email. We’ve always been interested in getting a women’s team started.”
Within a month, Lukens invited the women to meet and discuss starting a grassroots effort to form a women’s club varsity hockey team at George Washington University.
Lukens believes an increased interest in hockey is being driven, in part, by the gold-medal performance in the 2018 Winter Olympics by the U.S. women’s hockey team and the fact that the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup last year, heightening interest in the sport around the D.C. area.
Craig-Scheckman and Lukens first had to establish the team as a club at the university. They had to find 10 women interested in joining, and the club had to demonstrate a need on campus. After receiving approval for the club in October, the women were able to fundraise.
As a club, the women had to draft a constitution and present their idea to the sports council to be established as a club varsity sport and receive university funding. Their proposal was approved in December.
“We haven’t found anyone who’s said ‘no,'” Lukens said. “There’s no barriers for us yet.”
The team started dry-land training — running around the monuments of D.C. — and established a six-person executive board to work out logistics. The ice time came following a story in the The GW Hatchet, the school’s student newspaper. The St. James, a local sports complex, reached out to help after hockey parents from local club teams saw the story.
The rink offered Wednesday evening practices on full ice for one hour at 10:30 p.m. In high school, Lukens and Craig-Scheckman said they were used to sharing ice time at the Howelsen Ice Arena.
To help get the club on its feet, Craig-Scheckman and Lukens started a GoFundMe page, where they raised $3,500. They also raised $150 at an ice skating event in D.C.
For now, the club plans to charge $360 per member, which is affordable to most people who have played a lifetime of club hockey. The men’s team at GWU, which has been around since 1995, charges $1,700 per player, which includes travel costs, ice time and officiating for a 20-game schedule.
The GWU women’s team will not compete this year but has made it a goal to scrimmage George Mason University, another newly-established team, by the end of February.
The news of the women’s team spread through social media, catching Taylor Hadley’s attention through Twitter, and Hadley, commissioner of the women’s Division II programs at the American Collegiate Hockey Association, reached out.
“I started a program at Loyola University Maryland, and something about them starting a program really resonates with me,” Hadley said. “I reached out to them because, if we can pop in at those early stages, that’s what I’m going to do. If you get the name out on the national level, grouped with teams, then you expand interest in your region.”
Hadley said this level of women’s hockey is overlooked, and often women go to college wanting the collegiate experience but miss having a team. So far, the ACHA has 49 Division II and 23 Division 1 women’s club teams, which are grouped into six-team conferences with a national tournament.
Hadley expects about 10 applications for teams to join the ACHA by the deadline on March 1. Once Lukens and Craig-Scheckman submit their application, they’ll know within a week if their team will be a part of the ACHA for the 2019-20 season.
During the application process, Hadley is looking for sustainability. She wants the teams to understand the funding they will need and hopes they have a hockey rink close enough so members stay committed. Ideally, the team should have at least 10 players, leadership structure, school support and a coach.
The prospective conference the George Washington University women’s team will join will be College Hockey East, which includes teams from University of Buffalo, University of Pittsburgh, Liberty University and University of Delaware. The George Washington men’s team is part of the Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League through the ACHA, which hosts teams spanning from North Carolina to Philadelphia.
Craig-Scheckman and Lukens are already heavily involved on campus.
Lukens is head of the spirit program and also involved in theater council, a political organization and has an internship on Capitol Hill. Craig-Scheckman is a member of environmental protection organizations on campus and serves as an intern for Monarch Global Strategies, a consulting firm that works with businesses in Latin America and Mexico.
But growing up in Steamboat has given them the tools to take initiative when they want to get something done.
“It’s going to be nice to have something familiar to go back to,” Lukens said. “Hockey was such a constant part of our lives and offered support. I really believe that if you want something done, give that job to the busiest person ever.”
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