From the Catbird Seat...Hockey moms turn into Cougars (on the ice)


It started as exercise. Now, 16 women from Cloquet, Esko and Carlton are taking their hockey a lot more seriously.

A number of years ago, hockey moms with sons and daughters in the Cloquet, Esko and Carlton hockey programs started to play an annual end-of-season scrimmage in Carlton, while holding a fundraiser at the same time.

Eventually, interest in the scrimmage dwindled -- but interest in playing hockey was rekindled a few years back by moms with a different purpose.

One of those moms is Jamie Day, who has two sons in hockey: one on CEC's junior varsity team and another in bantams.

Now, she has the moms organized.

"We had a group that was more interested in [playing hockey] regularly, skating on a regular basis," Day explained. "We wanted a more competitive team, where we practiced."

And now, the moms are skating for cancer research.

"We have gone from a group of ladies who wanted to exercise to a group that likes to compete," she said. "It's great laughter and fun."

Recently, the ladies took that fun to another level, taking part in the annual "Stick It To Cancer" adult tournament at the Schwan's Super Rink in Blaine, Minn.

Then, the moms who played "just for fun" strapped on their blades to play a competitive game for the first time.

"We raised money for cancer research and it was a lot of fun, too," Day said. "We played three games: won one, lost one, and tied one."

Not bad.

"They had an interesting tie-breaker," Day said. "If you were tied at the end of a game, the team that won would be the one which raised the most money for cancer research. Our goal was to get $100 per player raised for the tournament and we went down there with about $1,200 raised."

That tournament forced the team to choose a name, and one was selected with tongues planted firmly in cheek.

"We're the CEC Cougars," Day laughed. "We're a bunch of 30-somethings."

The 16 Cougars range in age from 30 to 50, and since a gentleman never asks a lady her age, we'll just leave it at that.

All but one of the current players either have children playing hockey or have had children in the program in the past -- and it doesn't matter whether the child is male or female.

"The laughing and fun you have is good, and it's good exercise," Day said. "This isn't about who the winner is, it's fun."

At least for now.

The team has taken direction from informal coach Mike Erickson, whose wife Pam plays on the team.

"He has kind of been our coach," Day said. "Having the direction from Mike works really well and he sees improvement in us. He'll watch us practice and say, 'It'll work better if you do it this way.' And it does."

Day's goal is to add a second tournament next season but there's one obstacle. The hockey moms are still ... well ... hockey moms. The kids come first.

"We played our tournament at the end of the season," she said. "That was good, but if you're running with your kids to their own tournaments, it's hard. Timing is the big factor. We would try to practice every other week but it was really hit or miss."

That said, the matter of getting kids where they need to go won't stop Day or her teammates.

"I don't see myself saying I don't want to do this anymore," she said. "It's fun. We're getting better. Everybody has the drive to win and to do better and to improve. Hopefully, everyone wants to [play more tournaments] next year. But in the end you're still hockey moms."

Or even Cougars.