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Breaking the ice Women lacing up their skates to learn how to play hockey
AUBURN - Anna Feldman sat back in the bleachers, a black 'Survivor' buff pulled over her hair like a bandanna, her feet dangling over the side of the wooden seats.
Ben Feldman tugged on one set of laces, trying to pull them tight enough for
"I won't tie them for her anymore," Anna's husband, Lane, said with a smirk.
"I'm a mean guy, I guess."
"What I'm finding is that a lot of these ladies are mothers of girls or boys who play hockey, and all of a sudden these women are tired of having their husbands and kids having all the fun, so they're coming out to have their own fun," Gary Rousseau said.
Rousseau runs Rousseau's Hockey Clinics, a business that has helped thousands of young Maine hockey players learn to play better since opening up shop in 1986.
"We started running adult clinics, back in 2003 ... it was co-ed, but over the next couple of years we started to see more women involved," Rousseau said. "In 2005, we decided to do an all-women's clinic. They filled."
And they keep on filling - quickly.
When Anna Feldman hit the ice Tuesday night at Ingersol Arena in Auburn, she was one of nearly three dozen women at the Rousseau's basic skills session.
"The way our program is structured, each session is an hour of drills and an hour of scrimmage," Rousseau said. "During the scrimmage, we control it, and our instructors are on the ice with the ladies, giving them different perspectives, telling them where to be and how to go."
Donna Racine and Donna Rousseau - yes, that's Gary's wife out there - were among the skaters at Tuesday's 'basic' session. Aside from Gary, Donna's husband, John, is also an instructor, as is Lane Feldman. John Racine is also an assistant coach at St. Dom's, and the couple's son, Zac, played this season as a senior at Lewiston High School.
"I figured, they were always gone and playing hockey.
Why couldn't I?" Donna Racine said.
Despite being around the sport for years, neither had been active themselves - until this clinic came around. And even then, it was a battle at first.
"In their first hour, they were deer in the headlights," Rousseau said. "After the first five or 10 minutes, they were going to do the first night, but they were never coming back. At the end of the two hours, they just couldn't wait to get back here."
On the other end of the spectrum, of course, are those who have been with the program since its inception, like Grace Brown of Portland.
"My son played with Casco Bay hockey in Portland, and it looked like so much fun, so I tried it," Brown said. "This is five years ago, and there were only co-ed groups, and there were only a few women. The second I stepped onto the ice - I had never skated before - I was addicted to it."
In five years, Rousseau expanded the program, started
the women's-only clinic and even has to expand again this summer due to the
overwhelming interest. Skaters like Brown are a big reason why.
But the majority of the women Rousseau has in the
clinics are first-timers, estimating that about 80 percent of the
participants are new to the sport. It adds an element of fun to the game, he
But are the women learning anything more than how to
skate? "I was talking to my son about a game we played the other day,"
Donna Rousseau said. "And I told him, I was over here, and this other women
was in a spot I didn't think she should have been, given the situation. He
was like, 'All right, mom, you're right.'"
As for the skate tying? Yeah, the staff still helps some of the women out with that, too. But they better learn how to do it themselves pretty quickly.
8 Danbury Drive Auburn, Maine 04210 Phone & Fax: (207) 784-2821