Way back in 2014, Lindsay and Kathleen sat at a UW Badger Women’s hockey game discussing (during intermission, since Kathleen doesn’t allow talking during play) the outlook for the North Division of the WCHL. It didn’t look good. Beginner teams were disappearing. Players that wanted to skate, especially beginners, had nowhere to go. Quality instruction specifically for women’s hockey was hard to find. This hinders player development and increases the rate of attrition. Consistent, high quality practices with content aimed at adult women just learning the game were almost impossible to come by. Without enough teams in the league at each skill level, teams had to play league games against the same opponent all season. Or they had to play against opponents at a significantly higher or lower skill level which made for very lopsided games. Neither option was fun for either team. The problem was also starting to spread to higher level teams within the North Division. Without developing new players, the higher level teams would eventually have trouble filling their rosters. We concluded that someone had to start making more opportunities for beginners.
We talked about it. A lot. For months on end. Our wives got sick of hearing us talk about hockey. There were days we spent more time talking to each other about hockey than talking to our respective wives about anything. We still have some of those days, come to think of it…. Much to the consternation of our wives, we then spent time with our wives talking about the conversations we were having with each other about hockey. Oops! This would be an excellent time to thank our wives for being AWESOME in every way. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We dreamed. We may even have bought a few lotto tickets and earmarked some of the imagined winnings to build a hockey rink and start a club of our own. ARR!!!!! We realized we had very compatible views on hockey best practices. And we had a fair amount of experience with a variety of teams, hockey and otherwise between the two of us. We certainly didn’t know everything (we still don’t), but we knew one or two things.
In the spring of 2016, Thunder had their annual team meeting. One of Thunder’s captains raised the possibility of starting a new Thunder team a level below the current team. The team agreed that it was a good idea and they would look into implementing the idea for the 2017-2018 season. Lindsay’s brain went into overdrive. Here was an opportunity to create just the sort of team she had been discussing with Kathleen for the past two years. Lindsay called Kathleen immediately after the meeting and they got serious about planning. They proposed to Thunder that the new team be created for the 2016-2017 season instead and offered to do as much work as necessary to make it happen.
Getting started was a bit rough, but by July, we had ice for the new team. By the end of August, we had enough players to fill the roster minimum. The new team was to be Thunder’s Rec team, which quickly became TRecs. Lots of dinosaur references ensued. By the end of September, we had not found anyone with the appropriate level of knowledge, experience, teaching ability, good humor, and availability to coach the team. Lindsay played college hockey (before that was a thing in the midwest, we’re not talking Div I here folks) and Kathleen had several years of ice skating lessons under her belt. So we decided we had better learn to coach and started madly consuming massive amounts of information in a short period of time – thank you Google and You Tube.
We met the team for the first time at a team meeting shortly before our first ice. What a great group of humans! We knew it would be a blast. As it happens, our first ice was a mixed scrimmage with Thunder on a Saturday. And then we had our very first game the next day. Some of our skaters had never played at all before. Some of them could count on two hands the number of times they’d been on ice skates in their whole lives. And that game was so much fun! We did have a practice before our second game and got a few things sorted out – like which net to score on, names, how to put on all that gear and such.
By December, the team seemed to be having as much fun as we had hoped and they were clearly making massive gains in their hockey skills. We wanted their feedback on what we could do better, what they liked, and what kind of a future they saw for the team. They had some really great ideas for us. And they wanted to play again next year! Overall, they were very happy and wanted more. We had picked up several players over the season who wanted to be part of the team. We started thinking about running two teams by 2018.
By spring of 2017, it was clear that we needed to be our own hockey club. The first thing we needed was an awesome team name. Being highly nerdy, we looked to nerd culture for inspiration. Given the consistent locker room use of quotes from The Princess Bride, we chose the Dread Pirates, with much laughter about all of the jerseys saying “Roberts” on the back. Even pirates need to file paperwork, so we inked a charter, started building our own “ship”, and filling out our own crew manifest. The Dread Pirate Ship set sail in October 2017 with Lindsay and Kathleen as the original “Robertses”.