The 12-year-old boy was digging through his hockey bag for shin guards. Coming up empty, he gave his mom a call. The conversation went something like this:
Boy: “Mom, I can’t find my shin guards.”
Mom: “Did you leave them at home?”
Boy: “No, they were in my bag.”
Mom: “Oh, shoot, sorry, I used them and must have forgotten to put them back.”
Sound familiar? Probably not, unless you’re Stefanie Olson or one of the other hockey moms taking part in the Chicks with Sticks hockey program. Founded by hockey lifer Mike Curti, Chicks with Sticks offers women, some of whom have never skated before, the chance to learn basic hockey skills.
Curti started the club 12 years ago in the Mound-Westonka area when a group of hockey moms—who were all watching their kids play—started expressing interest in learning about the sport. Since then, Curti has opened clinics all over the metro, including one here in Woodbury. His goal is to improve skills, but he relishes the opportunity to share his passion with a new group of people. “It is so much fun to see ladies enjoying something so central to my life,” Curti says. “I am getting a lot of laughs and having a great time. The smiles I see are million-dollar smiles.”
We spoke to a few local “chicks” to learn a little more about their hockey experience.
Shin guard hiccups are becoming rarer for Olson now that she has most of her own equipment. When she first started playing last February, Olson borrowed almost everything from her son, Cooper. At the time, she wasn’t even sure she was going to show up for more than one clinic. Inspired by a friend to try something new, she gave it a shot. “I thought about it and I was like, ‘Gosh, I’m not getting any younger; maybe this can be the new thing I learn this year,’” Olson says.
With 9-year-old hockey-playing daughter Carlie to go along with her son, it seemed like a natural fit for Olson to give hockey a try. She had grown up skating on ponds in New York, but had never really had a stick in her hand. Recruiting a few other hockey moms to join her, Olson set out on the adventure.
Along the way, she had a few “aha” moments, such as the importance of a chest protector (she got some bumps and bruises during a drill), but she says she wouldn’t change the experience for the world. After a few months taking part in clinics, she even joined a women’s hockey league in Edina.
More than anything, Olson has learned the intricacies and skills of hockey, and has a new appreciation for the sport as a mom. “I’m not as critical when I watch my kids play anymore,” she says. “I now realize how hard it is to catch a pass.” And her kids have a new appreciation for their mom as well. “I like that I can share and talk about my favorite sport with her and show her the right positions to get a goal,” Carlie says.
Cooper adds, “I think it’s cool because now when we go to the outdoor rink, we can play a game of hockey together as a family.”
If you’re a hockey mom reading this story, things might start getting a little meta. Ten years ago, Molly McCloskey was flipping through a magazine (just like this one) when she saw a story about women’s hockey (just like this one). She thought it looked like fun (just like you?) and joined up with the Women’s Hockey Association of Minnesota (WHAM). She joined a team and started her own hockey adventure that is still going strong.
WHAM is a recreational league for players of all levels—from beginners to a few Olympians—so, unlike in Chicks with Sticks, McCloskey was part of a full-fledged, formal team. “We joke now, but we took a whole year to understand what offsides was,” McCloskey says. “We didn’t even know a lot of the basic rules.”
When McCloskey got involved with Chicks with Sticks, it was to further her skills for her league play. She took part in a few of Curti’s clinics for development and improvement to bring back to her WHAM team, of which she is still a part today. Now that Chicks with Sticks has moved into Woodbury, McCloskey is hopeful the sport will keep growing, and that one day a Woodbury team could join WHAM. “Being a girl growing up, you know about hockey, but it was never an option to play,” McCloskey says. Now she sees more and more women getting the chance to play a sport they love.
The hockey-playing Perells: mom Trish and Karli, 8.
Like McCloskey, Trish Perell never had the opportunity to play hockey growing up. She was, however, a “rink rat,” having a father who coached for 18 years. “There wasn’t a lot of girls’ hockey when I grew up, so [Chicks with Sticks] was my first opportunity to get out there,” Perell says. “It was exciting.”
Now with an 8-year-old daughter playing the sport, Perell’s favorite thing is that she gets to learn skills she can pass on to her daughter, Karli. After spending years watching her father coach teams, Perell gets to do the same thing with Karli, and they’ve bonded over her favorite sport. “I never thought I’d get the opportunity to play,” Perell says. “Especially alongside my daughter.”
Even after watching the sport her whole life and being an athlete all throughout high school and college, Perell has a newfound appreciation for the skill it takes to play hockey. She also has a newfound appreciation for how fun it can be. “Nobody should be afraid to try hockey out,” Perell says.
Cathi Newman with Mac, 15, husband Tom and Camden, 13.
When Cathi Newman married a hockey player, she knew nothing about the sport. It didn’t take long for her to realize not knowing anything about hockey wasn’t really an option. “Hockey just grew on me,” she says. “I like to stay active, and it is a much more enjoyable way to work out than running.”
Newman’s own hockey career began 10 years ago when a group of women decided to get together and learn the game. Back then it was a bunch of hockey moms who would join each other for ice time, often led by one of their husbands or a friend with hockey experience to put them through drills. Once her family moved to Woodbury and Newman found out about Chicks with Sticks, she jumped at the opportunity to further her skills.
Now that Newman has made hockey such a big part of her life, the sport has become a family affair. The whole Newman clan spends time out on their backyard rink playing 2-on-2 (mom and dad vs. kids). “Their skills are way better than me now,” Newman says of her 15-year-old daughter, Mac, and her 13-year-old son, Camden.
“I’m still not as much of a diehard as the three of them are,” Newman says, speaking about her family. “If I can see the wind whipping, I usually say, ‘No, I’m good; I’ll watch from the window and have a glass of wine.’ But I still enjoy it. I get out there as much as I can.”
Chicks with Sticks