Wednesday, June 6, 2012

From Warriors to Monarchs

Click read more to view many pictures interspersed with lengthy talk about my memories of my siblings hockey careers as I was growing up. But most importantly, the Lady Monarchs Jersey Quest (photographed) was fulfilled.

Lady Monarchs Jersey Quest

With the impending Stanley Cup championship by the LA Kings, who have a 3-0 series lead over NJ going into tomorrow, I became motivated to search for a few Kings-related jerseys I knew lingered in my house somewhere. They are not LA Kings jerseys. The Kings AHL affiliate is the Manchester Monarchs and a few big pieces of the Kings success this postseason, spent more of the season in Manchester. At least half of the Kings roster played in Manchester at some point.

I never understood why a team in California would have an AHL affiliate in New Hampshire, but it sure makes me happy because I love all NH-related hockey things. It's why I'll always love Ben Lovejoy and Mark Fayne (even though he sucks), because they were both born in NH. Anyway, the Manchester Monarchs had (not sure if they still do) a very amateur affiliate called the Lady Monarchs, which my sister played for several years ago. She doesn't play hockey very well, nor did her teammates, but they still traveled around New England and played other women's teams. This was around the same time she played a year of college hockey at University of Rhode Island. Soon after, she would audition to be a Bruins ice girl in the very first year they held ice girl tryouts.

Like my older brother, Chris, whose hockey achievements are numerous and something I'll always be proud of him for (and use any excuse to bring up in any hockey-related conversation), my sister's minimal hockey achievements are things we are still proud of her for to this day. I mean, being a Bruins ice girl for 1 year was awesome, because she still has connections to the ice crew, who give us free things at games (like game pucks, broken sticks, and other special goodies).

Although my sister played for the Lady Monarchs, I do not think that gave her any real connection to the Monarchs club, nor the LA Kings. But it's still exciting...just because. So, I asked her if she still had any of her old jerseys that she left at the house. She did! 3, in fact! I was so excited...especially because they are sparkly.

This is from a 2003 Bruins game against Carolina. My brother, Chris (right) and I went to the game while my sister (left) was working the game as an ice girl. (Flickr).
How I spent the first 17 years of my life

While rummaging for those jerseys, I found a huge stash of Chris' hockey jerseys from youth hockey through prep school hockey. Along with that, I found handfuls of youth hockey medals, patches, and buttons from the dozens of teams and tournaments he played in and awards he won. Because many of these tournaments are the reason I can say things like "he once scored a game winning goal on a breakaway against Rick DiPietro" - because many current NHLers around his age (32) played in those tournaments. Mostly these were New England tournaments, but also a few USA national tournaments and some international (Canadian) tournaments. Many of the kids he played against that went on to play in the NHL were obviously great, which is why they went on to the NHL, which my brother also had a shot at once, but eventually ended after 4 years of D1 college hockey and half a season with the Toledo Storm of the ECHL. He also played against these guys at prep school when he played for Lawrence Academy, as well as a year in the BCHL with the Vernon Vipers, followed by his 4 years of NCAA and less than 1 year of ECHL.

Prep school hockey
I went way off subject there, but the point was, I found a lot of jerseys and medals and crap from those teams, and it brings back a lot of memories for me because much of it happened when I was very young and only had vague recollections of. I grew up in hockey rinks because Chris is 7 years older than me, so I didn't have a choice because my mom was taking care of him and taking him to hockey practices while dragging around me and my other 2 siblings (Dan and Jackie).

Memories of a siblings hockey adventures

One of the first teams my brother played for
I remember the crisp smell that was a mixture of fresh ice and locker room stench that mixed under the bleachers of Skate One in Tyngsboro. If I wasn't playing under the bleachers, I was playing on them. That brings back more memories of distinct sounds and smells. The large, shaky bleachers squeaked a little bit, but the sound of skates on the ice and sticks hitting pucks echoed in the small arena. This is also where I first skated, and hated it.

I was born in 1987 in Columbia, Maryland but soon moved to where I live now: Nashua, NH. The earliest years of my life that involved hockey rinks also involved traveling to tournaments. In the mid-90s when my brother was becoming an increasing draft prospect, there were several trips to Canada. Before I discovered the many relics of those tournaments, I have only had a vague recollection of what it was like to be in Canada - specifically, Quebec, where I got separated from my parents in the crowded building that housed the tournament, and all I remember is not being able to ask for help because everyone spoke French.

I can now see in my mind's eye those rinks that were nicer than what I was used to, tables with player name badges, scouts, and finding kids my age to play with (I was around 6-8 during these trips). My siblings and I would get bored and pick fights with each other, while my parents would be so engrossed in watching Chris on the ice that they didn't bother to stop us fighting. But as soon as the game was over and we would meet him coming out of the locker room with that always-smelly equipment bag, we stopped fighting and had fun.

1 year at Nashua High, 4 at Lawrence Academy

Chris played 1 year of hockey at the local high school (which, at the time, was just one high school - Nashua High). He was varsity his freshmen year and was the best player on the team. Under the advice of scouts or some sort of consultants, the decision was made that he had a better chance if he played prep school hockey in Massachusetts - for a full four years. So, he got into Lawrence Academy and repeated freshmen year; by his senior year he was captain. He played against his best friend, (who went on to play for the LA Kings - Jeff Guiliano) on a rival team, Cushing Academy. Although interest from big schools such as BC or BU waned in his lethargic senior year, he still made it to Division I college hockey with the Wayne State Warriors in Michigan. Sadly, only a few years later, they ceased to have a hockey team, but when Chris played for them, they won at least 1 CHA championship while he was there.

College Hockey

The CHA (now only women's college hockey teams) at that time was comprised of Wayne State, Niagara, Bemijdi State (now part of the WCHA), Air Force, Findlay, and Alabama-Huntsville. In 2002, Niagara hosted the tournament, so I drove out with my mom and some family from New York and had such a blast rooting for him and seeing them win (5-4 in OT). The season before that, my brother's sophomore year, Wayne State had also won the tournament. Then, in his final year, they won their 3rd straight CHA championship - all teams he was a part of.

Chris and I after the CHA tournament win in New York
He had a pretty great coach, apparently - Bill Wilkinson. He assistant coached the St. Lawrence Saints for 2 years, but overall, he is part of a group of 67 men's ice hockey college coaches with 300 wins (he ranks 29th with 437 wins). In Chris' senior year, the winner of the CHA tournament championship was for the 1st time, given a spot in the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship tournament. The Warriors had won the CHA after beating Bemidji State on a goal by the now-famous author of Behind the Iron Curtain, Maxim Starchenko.

It was pretty exciting that they went to the NCAA Tournament; especially because it was on TV. Even though they faced Colorado College in the 1st game and lost. Colorado College lost to Michigan in the next round.What I find interesting about this is that the Colorado College team that they faced featured some familiar faces (well, now they are familiar) - specifically Mark Stuart, and captain/brother Colin Stuart. That team also had that year's Hobey Baker winner, Peter Sejna. Anyway, my point is, my brother's team made it pretty far given their expectations, and they lost to a really good team.

Youth hockey remnants

The original purpose of this was to share photos of all the cool stuff I found along with the Lady Monarchs jersey. So here are photos of what I found interesting and wanted to share (see the album at my flickr).

AAA tournaments in Montreal, 1993 and 1995

From U-18 Team USA tournaments from 96, 97, 98
ESSU Challenge Cup - Canadian tournament
In Summary

Go Kings! I really want them to bring the Cup to Manchester, which I am told is likely. I never got to get a pic with it last year when the Bruins won. I want to this year. However, I would like the Devils to win a few games because if the Kings sweep tomorrow, then hockey is over for the year. I'd like a few more days to enjoy hockey, please! 

My original mission of finding the Lady Monarchs jersey and sharing pictures of it obviously went out of control as you can see by all this crap. But, my original mission was fulfilled nonetheless! 

Although nobody in my family plays hockey anymore, we're all big fans. Sadly, Chris lives in Michigan and is therefore exclusively a Red Wings fan. Jackie and I still go to Bruins games together. I haven't gone with my mom or dad in years. And my brother, Dan, doesn't care about hockey, but I think I can convert his wife into a Bruins fan one of these days! The lifetime of hockey exposure on a personal level has permanently shaped my life as an adult: I love nothing more than hockey or the Bruins. My wardrobe, room, and anything else I can find Bruins-related, are all full of Bruins goodness. Maybe now that you see what I grew up around, my obsession with hockey is a little more understandable. :)

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