Over the years, the Frozen Snappers women’s hockey team has built a nice tradition.
The program started up 20 years ago and has had women come and go while offering a chance to skate in a women’s-only league.
The Chicago-based team plays in the Women’s Central Hockey League, facing teams from Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. The ladies play in Division 3 in the seven-league division.
Kari Maurelia has played for the Frozen Snappers for 15 years and is the longest-tenured woman on the team.
“I know when I joined there was two teams and then there was a time that the team kind of came back together,” Maurelia said. “Now, we’ve kind of separated again to do different level teams.”
Nicole Witt stumbled upon the Frozen Snappers about eight years ago, not long after she got out of college. She loved getting the opportunity to play hockey with other women.
“I was coaching a woman’s kids and she was like, ‘Hey, I have a women’s team. Do you want to come play?’” Witt said. “I was playing men’s league, but I wanted to play with the women’s team. I started playing on the team and a couple years later I started running it.”
Witt is part of a core group of five to six players who have stuck with the team for seven or more years.
“We’ve got some girls that I grew up playing with that are coming back to play — girls I played against in high school with the boys,” Witt said.
It’s important for Maurelia to return to the Frozen Snappers every year.
“I’m big on loyalty,” Maurelia said. “I think it’s important to be loyal to the team. I think it’s important because I can give the history. I can provide to the younger girls why we’re still here, where the name came from, all that kind of stuff.”
Maurelia loves the friendships she has built over the years with her teammates.
“It’s really like a family,” Maurelia said. “We learn about each other obviously being together every week. You learn about each other’s lives and their struggles and their joys, and you kind of go through it together. It really gives you something to look forward to. I always say I’m so calm during the week because I get all my aggression out on the weekends playing hockey.”
The Frozen Snappers have a wide range of ages on the team, going from 23 into the 50s. Even with that spread, all the players get along well.
“Our team’s awesome,” said Witt, who is 31 years old. “The locker room’s great. It’s something you don’t get playing men’s league.
“There’s just something about being in the locker room with women where you can just talk and it’s no big deal. You can actually talk. Guys don’t talk all that much, especially after a loss — that’s what we do.”
There isn’t a lot of turnover each year on the Frozen Snappers. However, injuries pop up and “a lot of pregnancies” happen on the team, joked Witt, forcing players to miss entire seasons.
When there is some turnover on the team, it can be challenging for the veteran players.
“Every time there’s new skaters you’ve got to get used to each other, how each other skates, how they pass. It always takes a little bit of time,” said Maurelia, 41. “But by the end of the season you’re jelling and the season’s over. You always look forward to having the same skaters return, because then you can have that camaraderie back and people know what they’re doing.”
“We get real used to each other’s play style,” said Witt, who also plays in a men’s league. “It makes it a lot easier to play.”
Along with playing in a weekly league, the Frozen Snappers enjoy traveling to tournaments. For the past four years, the ladies have headed up north to the Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships in Eagle River, Wisconsin.
“We like to get out a little bit,” Witt said. “But being up [there] is totally different.”
The Frozen Snappers had two teams compete in 2017, Witt’s team playing in the Women’s Bronze 21+ Division and other squad in the Women’s Beginner Division.
The older, more established team won its first game of the tournament before dropping the final two games and missing the playoffs.
Maurelia has played in the pond hockey tournament for six years, the last four with the Frozen Snappers. She loves her time away from everyday life.
“The atmosphere and being with everyone who loves hockey,” Maurelia said. “It’s such a great experience and it’s unlike anything you can experience anywhere else.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.