Ed. Note: Last week we ran a feature about Gwenn Amos, 51, a devout Christian and Doctor of Optometry who works for The Eye Institute in Chestnut Hill, is also an assistant professor at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in Elkins Park, a musician (drummer), marathon runner, five-year survivor of stage III ovarian cancer, public health expert (Master’s degree) who has volunteered her services in the mountain villages of Nepal, church volunteer, ice hockey team member who has scrimmaged with former players from the Philadelphia Flyers and soon-to-be certified Emergency Medical Technician. We thought that Flyers fans, who may not even know that there are women’s ice hockey teams, would find the following of interest:
by Dr. Gwenn Amos
Ice hockey had a surge of popularity for women in 1998 when women’s hockey was an “approved” Olympic event. Women had been playing hockey in the Olympics prior to 1998, but it did not become an official event until the 1998 games. I had always played sports growing up. There were no opportunities in high school or college to play, and I really had only skated a few times as a young girl.
One of my friends from Canada and I used to make friendly wagers on NHL games. By friendly wagers I mean that we didn’t wager money but would bet each other ridiculous things like having to sing the others’ National Anthem to them on the phone or getting a photo of themselves with a license plate from the others’ country.
I wasn’t familiar with the game and didn’t watch hockey, so would always let my friend pick which team he wanted to win, and I would take the opposing team. The funny thing is “my” team almost always won. It was such a fun time. My friend became particularly frustrated by my luck at this game and one day said to me, “Well, let’s see you ‘play’ hockey.” Well, despite the enjoyment I derived from our little game, I decided to give it a go.
I knew that one of my colleagues had a friend who played ice hockey, so I inquired about it. I started learning how to skate, wearing a baseball cap low over my face and holding on to the boards as I thought again and again if I would ever be able to skate, let alone play hockey. Things got much better once I was suited up with pads. Not only was it painless to fall, but we were doing drills at practice where you dove onto the ice and spun around and got back up as quickly as possible; the “Superman drill.”
Once the fear of being in pain from falling was gone, it was easier to take risks when skating. We call that “trusting your edges,” the edges of your skates. The team where I really developed was with the Hatfield Predators. They have been together for many years, and I always enjoy getting together with my old teammates a few times a year. For the past few years I have played with the Hawks in Warminster.
What is great about this organization, part of USA Hockey and the United Women’s Hockey League (UWHL), is that they have a developmental team and run clinics for new players several times per year. This typically comes at a cost to the organization. There are, however, few women who once they begin playing don’t absolutely love it.
The developmental team needed a goalie, so I thought I’d give it a try. I played goalie for two years, which is a particularly challenging position when you are at an older age. I have learned so much about positioning in just a few years, and it has made me appreciate other aspects of the game from a different perspective.
There are quite a few retired Flyers’ players in the area. They coach, teach clinics and participate in fundraising events. I have participated in a few fundraising events where you gather a group of amateurs to play these retired NHL players. The first time you participate, you take a look at them and think, “I’m much younger than they are, and I’m certainly in better physical condition. Maybe we can give them a go.”
Then within the first few plays of the game, you realize you are the mouse in the game of cat and mouse. Their puck control, ability to read the play and anticipate moves, not to mention their sheer finesse, is amazing. When these men are in their prime playing years pre-professionally and professionally, their conditioning is beyond what most of us will ever experience.
My ears always perk up when I hear people criticizing the Flyers. If you take away all that surrounds the world of professional sports, including the expectations one has of athletes being paid enormous amounts of money and just look at the skill of the people playing, it is really amazing. People who play hockey can appreciate their talent and perseverance to a greater extent than people who don’t play. But there is still such a huge gap between our abilities that we can never know how really good they are…
Like the Bible says, life is like a vapor. Anytime we have an opportunity to be the hands or feet of the Lord to others, that is our service to Him. I live in continual blessings from the Lord and am charged to share His love with others who do not know of it.
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