Tonight, October 11, 2012, is supposed to be opening night for the National Hockey League Season. Unfortunately, the league has been in a lockout since its collective bargaining agreement expired on September 15, meaning that there will be no hockey tonight — at least not at the Wells Fargo Center. However, Swarthmore hockey diehards are not out of luck. At 9:40 p.m. at Parrish Circle, the Swarthmore Motherpuckers will congregate, as they do twice a week, and drive to a local rink to play ice hockey.The Motherpuckers are, without a doubt, one of Swarthmore’s most tightly knit intramural sports teams. They are open to all, describing themselves on their website as, “the place where anyone in any skill level can come and have an amazing time with friends and Swat”, and the club does, in fact, attract players of all skill levels. According to team member Tony Lee ’15, “students of all skill levels, from [those] not sure how to skate to club hockey players, are welcome.” This message of inclusivity has helped the team attract a large roster: 46 players are listed on the club’s website.Further demonstrating the diversity of experience on the team are the hometowns of the players. Ice hockey is, for the most part, a regional sport in the United States, with players concentrated in New England and the Upper Midwest. Internationally, top nations include Canada and Russia and its former satellite republics. While some Motherpuckers do hail from these hockey hotbeds, others are from places such as Beijing, China and Cupertino, California — places that are not known for their hockey prowess.
The Motherpuckers are able to attract such a diverse group of players while maintaining a high caliber of play by splitting participants into “A” and “B” lines. According to Atish Agarwala ’13, “the intensity on A line picks up from time to time, but we always have a B line for players new to the game to play comfortably.” Splitting the lines in this fashion allows the club to create a competitive atmosphere for stronger, more experienced players, while ensuring that players new to the game have a safe and supportive playing environment.
Ice time is difficult to come by. Consequentially, the Motherpuckers are forced to play late into the night, with ice time ending at 11:45 p.m. Perhaps it is these late nights that have helped build the chemistry of the Motherpuckers. Agarwala and Lee both raved about the team’s closeness, with Agarwala citing, “the chance to get to meet a whole bunch of great people and really build a community on and off the ice” as one of his favorite parts of being a member of the club. Lee was also a fan of the team’s late night eating habits, adding that, “post-Puckers Tom Jones trips are always memorable.”
Being a Motherpucker does not end with graduation. Alumni participate in Motherpucker practices frequently. Agarwala fondly remembered one of these games from this past spring, in an anecdote that further illustrates the deep bonds formed by team members. “It was the last [Motherpucker game] for Jonathan Hui ’12, who had help run the club for three years and was the best friend I’ve ever made at Puckers. We also had some other alumni from my time in [Motherpuckers] come down. We ended up playing seniors and alumni vs. underclassmen, and it was a lot of fun. Afterwards, we presented Hui with a custom jersey that we had all chipped in to buy for him”.
Of course, just because the team is tightly knit does not mean that they are above getting a little competitive with one another. Agarwala describes the van rides as being “always filled with people excitedly chattering away — with a healthy dose of trash talk, of course.”
The balance between an intense competitive spirit among the experienced players and a spirit of inclusiveness that welcomes first timers has helped transform the Motherpuckers into one of the most successful clubs at the College. Of course, there is one other factor that doesn’t hurt: ice time is not inexpensive, and as Lee put it, “free hockey is also almost unheard of.” So, hockey fans, if the NHL lockout is making you miss your hockey fix, remember that the College has its own hockey program. It is open to everyone, and to date, it has never had a lockout.