Contributed by Sean Whelan
Helmets strapped on and skates tightly laced, Brookline hockey players glide onto the ice for another practice. Huddled around their coach, the players listen intently for the first drill. Some of the players wave to their parents, for they are all in elementary school. Flash forward to today: the same players race onto the ice, ready for a game of speed and skill.
Historically, Brookline girls hockey has lagged behind boys hockey, experience-wise; however, the teams are joining forces to develop together as a more united program. Even though the boys hockey team has had more experience through youth programs, both the boys and girls programs at the high school are actively growing and uniting as one program.
Junior Jack Heuberger, like many of his other teammates, has been playing since he was in first grade on Brookline Youth Hockey Ice Mice team. Now, he plays on the junior varsity one team.
“Nobody is starting to play hockey [on the boys team], that’s the thing. Everybody has played hockey before for at least a few years. So it’s not really cuts, but separation based on skill,” Heuberger said.
Heuberger said he thinks it would be more difficult to start playing hockey when you are older due to the fact that you have to buy all the equipment and then learn how to skate. The majority of the girls on junior varsity are playing for the first time.
According to senior Courtney Berzolla, only four people on the junior varsity team have played before as opposed to roughly 20 others who have not. Berzolla started her sophomore year because she thought it would be fun to start a new sport, which was a common pull for many of the new junior varsity girls players this year.
“People know that it’s not as competitive. I think it’s kind of serious, but not so serious. On junior varsity, if you can stand up on the ice, that’s pretty great,” Berzolla said.
In the past, the girls teams were combined with Newton South High School. The teams are no longer combined, even though a few Newton players have chosen to stay, so the girls teams at the high school have been filled with a heavy influx of new players from Brookline.
As popularity has increased for the girls hockey teams, the program has developed as a whole, which overall has led to more unity between the teams.
“The boys have had the biggest program in the past five years; we went from two teams to three teams. I know that girls hockey has also gotten a lot more attention,” Heuberger said. “But I think there’s starting to be both the Brookline hockey teams starting to become more connected to each other overall.”
Last year, many of the boys hockey players attended the girls’ annual “Pink in the Rink” game, which raises money for breast cancer research. Sophomore and assistant captain of the varsity boys team Ellis Vish says the boys dressed up for the occasion.
“I feel like both the boys and girls teams, we both have good connections. We both show up to the ‘Pink in the Rink’ game. It was a really fun experience,” Vish said. “The main difference is they just started playing by themselves [without Newton South], and we’ve been playing as just Brookline the entire time.”