By Dan Shine
West Haven Girls’ Hockey League
See part 2
Every story begins somewhere: This story begins on the frozen surface of Lake Phipps; And it begins along a dammed-up stream, on a spot known as Hubbard Pond; And it begins at Connecticut Pond on Lake Street; And it begins on West Haven Green, flooded and frozen each winter, to give the townspeople a place where they could gather to skate, and find a cure for their Cabin Fever.
It was inevitable that some of the boys would gather in these places to play hockey. Some of the girls, perhaps sisters of these boys, and filled with daring and a competitive spirit, would join them in these informal gatherings.
And it was also inevitable that, like the boys, the girls would want a hockey league of their own: One where they could play real, organized, disciplined hockey. The year was 1972, and those girls were Kathy Lenehan, Maureen McDaniels, Theresa Dixon, Linda McCarty, Ruth Maher, Maryellen DiBianco, Karen Card, Sue Ruggerio, Karen Crouse, Patty Yates, Carol Franco, and Sue Passander.
According to one of those girls, one who is now entering her Golden Years, the girls who started girls’ hockey either had brothers or a boyfriend who played hockey on a team. The initial idea of starting a girls’ team just came up in conversation once when they were all together.
Hockey was not considered a “Girls’ Sport,” but many of the girls had a somewhat rebellious streak; they’d already played with brothers and friends, and so they went forward with enthusiasm. In fact, most of the girls played one sport or another, every month of the year. Before long, there was a signup sheet posted on the wall at the Bennett Rink, and it began to fill up with names.
Early equipment for the girls was limited to skates and a hockey stick. In the beginning at least, most of the girls wore the figure skates that they already had.
The league was composed of four in-house teams, sponsored by Johnny Walsh’s, Whitey Bensen, West Haven Police Department and Aluminum Applicators. The best players moved up to become part of Conlan’s All Stars. As time went on, most of the girls became “rink rats,” and could be found at Bennett Rink six or seven days a week.
To be Continued-
Our thanks to Maryellen DiBianco Launder, Bea McCurry and Mike McCurry for the early development of this story.