The post-season tournament for intramural hockey has begun. Teams with names like Zamboners and Puck Me Sideways are filling Honnen, playing for the honor of calling themselves intramural champions.
Intramural hockey is full court play with pads, with a beginner and an intermediate division. Two referees supervise each game. But these referees aren’t just uniformed officials, they are also often players.
Juniors James Shepard, Eric Wolatz, and Katherine Wilkinson are all referees as well as members of the team Hold Ma Stick, the defending intermediate champions. They know the sport from both sides of the ice and they encourage others to get involved with the intramural that they love.
“Intramural hockey provides everyone with the opportunity to try out a great sport in a low-stress atmosphere. Whether you are there because you used to play hockey and love to get back out on the ice, want to try skating for the first time, or your friend begged you to show up so their team would not have to forfeit, intramural hockey covers it all. As a former player, personally I love the opportunity it gives me to lace up a pair of skates and play an exciting game,” said Shepard.
Joining an intramural hockey team does not require any previous experience, so the skill level seen in games can greatly vary. The lack of a club hockey team this year has sent many of the previous club players into the intermediate intramural league, creating a more serious and competitive atmosphere.
Though the skill level and intensity may have increased, those interested in playing intramural hockey don’t have to worry about overly aggressive playing. Despite the slightly violent reputation of hockey, those playing intramural aren’t likely to be knocking out teeth.
“I feel that hockey may seem more aggressive than other sports because you have a wooden stick in your hand that you’re swinging around, and you’re running into other people a decent amount and falling onto a cold hard surface, but in my experience at CC, all intramurals are pretty competitive/aggressive, and hockey isn’t any more so than most,” said Wolatz.
It may disappoint any potential spectators, but fighting just isn’t a part of intramural hockey. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen two players get into a serious fight,” said Shepard.
Even arguing with the referees isn’t very common. In the beginner division, the players are more worried about staying on their skates and chasing down the puck than about contradicting a call.
“One of the only times that I have had some trouble is when we have to tell somebody that they are too good for the beginner league and must be moved up and find a team in the intermediate league. For obvious reasons their team usually is very against this policy, but we must enforce it in order to have a fair league,” said Wilkinson.
The increase of skill level in the intermediate division does come with a slight increase in arguing. “Intermediate is a lot more intense because the players there know the rules and come from backgrounds where they feel free to call out the refs. In these cases, we just have to have each other’s backs and support the initial call that was made by a referee staff,” said Wolatz.
Referees do have difficulty enforcing rules to prevent “skating under the influence”. However, players should realize that it isn’t a smart game strategy. Slippery ice and reduced coordination are not a good combination.
A more positive aspect of intramural hockey is the co-ed athleticism. “The rule is that each team in the beginner league must have at least one member of the underrepresented sex, which is usually a female. There is no such rule for the intermediate league. However, we have seen a rise in female participants in the intermediate this year, and most teams have at least one woman if not more – which is awesome! For instance, my team has two women on the roster, and I know of another team that has at least four,” said Wilkinson.
On Dec. 17 at 5:30 p.m. in Honnen, one team will be crowned the beginner league champions.