Emily Mills and Nick Drake
Dyno-White faces the Killer Bees in a Madison Gay Hockey Association match on Sunday night.
They're here, they're queer, now get on the ice and get ready for some serious hockey.
On Sunday night, the members of the Big Gay New Year's Eve Party, an event thrown by the MGHA as a fundraiser and a thank-you to its supporters. The party at the Sheraton Hotel's Grand Ballroom starts at 9:30 tonight, and it features appetizers, a cash bar and music by two local DJs. The demise of the Pink Party has led to an almost total absence of queer-centric parties on New Year's Eve in Madison, but MGHA's Big Gay event may help to fill that void.
The league has been hitting the ice and slapping shots since 2006, when founder Patrick Farabaugh moved from New York to Madison and decided that, like New York, Madison needed its own gay hockey league. Judging by the success and growth of the MGHA since then, his decision was well-founded. An organizational board and volunteer crew have been added, and the original four teams have now grown to six.
Still, communications director Jill Nebeker says their big goal for 2008 is to work on maintaining the successes of the past year, learning from any recent stumbles and attracting more volunteers to help with the various organizational duties. There's a lot to be done to keep a league moving forward, but the main focus, Nebeker insists, is and always will be "playing hockey."
Hockey is not an easy sport to pick up: the gear is expensive, and many of MGHA's members had never played prior to joining. Nebeker explains that the league implemented a mentoring program to make the game more accessible to a wider variety of people. Newcomers are assigned to the care of seasoned players, who provide basic instruction, help buying equipment and general encouragement.
Thanks to this help -- and that of the coaching staff -- the green players have improved quickly. Game play is surprisingly fast-paced and fun to watch for such a new and relatively inexperienced league. Goals aren't scored by just one or two players, and there is a noticeable level of team play-passing, maneuvering, assists, etc.
Goalies rotate from one team to another for each game, a system designed to give each goalie experience with different players and situations. Bri Deyo, assistant captain for team Dyno-White and MGHA board member, describes the goalies as a sort of team of their own, affectionately referring to them as the "nomad goalies."
"They have a unique perspective," says Deyo. "They can see the whole game from back where they stand. Afterwards, they give your team great input about what they saw, how you played, and tips for how to improve. And it's different with each goalie, so you get a wider range of ideas."
The all-inclusive spirit is the most notable aspect of the MGHA. Although the majority of the co-ed league's members identify as LGBTQ, it also includes straight players. The whole point, says Nebeker, is to foster a community that doesn't discriminate against anyone and that offers a chance to fulfill the athletic aspirations of people who might have otherwise not had an outlet for them.