Big Green’s Little League
Intramural hockey is a popular pastime among Dartmouth students, offering a way to get active and spend time with friends during Hanover’s coldest months.
To say that Dartmouth students have a long and storied history with winter sports would be an understatement. Since 1924, students from the College on the Hill have competed in every winter Olympics, racking up an impressive 28 medals — more than many countries. These medaled athletes representing the Big Green on the world stage are most impressive, but for those of us who can only hope to medal in procrastination or sleep-deprivation, a great way to make the most of the winter is through intramural hockey.
I hung up my skates after one pre-pandemic season of intramural hockey in early 2020, but for those students who’ve kept with the sport or just recently taken it up, it’s a great source of community, laughter and exercise.
Lillian Johnson ’23 has been hoping for a chance to get on the ice for a few years now, up until this winter, fate and injury have kept her from playing. Johnson’s father, a member of the Class of 1985, learned to skate on Occom by playing hockey with local Hanover kids, so Johnson’s connection to the sport extends beyond a quest for glory.
“I tore my ACL freshman year, so I couldn’t play, and then COVID happened last winter,” said Johnson. “I finally get to play this year and it’s been my dream for three years now.”
Johnson plays on a team with her friends from Dartmouth women’s rugby, who comprise two of the five teams currently registered in the women’s bracket of IM hockey. After a win against Dartmouth women’s volleyball on the ice last week, Johnson’s team, “Elegant Violence,” is off to a great start.
“We have this girl who’s Canadian, so at some point in her life she’s actually played hockey,” Johnson said. “She’s really good at skating and so she would just get the puck and bring it back to the top third [of the rink] and distribute it to one of the three girls up there. We would attempt to score, then she would retrieve the puck and do it again.”
Part of what’s so great about Dartmouth students participating in intramural hockey is that, because most people aren’t champion skaters, it’s a way for students to challenge themselves and have fun without being too attached to the outcome.
Lily Simon ’22, who has taken advantage of IM sports like hockey, softball and soccer throughout her time at Dartmouth, is a seasoned veteran who appreciates it mostly as an opportunity to have a good time with friends.
“I love recreational sports,” Simon said. “A lot of my friends do too and so we really try to take advantage of IM sports and have a lot of fun with it. We don’t take it too seriously, but it’s a fun thing to do together.”
Simon also noted that during the cold winter months IM hockey brings a little happiness and light to the week. Over winter break she made a team over a GroupMe and sent the link to everyone she knew and told them to invite whoever they wanted.
Katherine Taylor ’22 is another returning IM player who plays, along with Simon, on Team “We Luv Hockey.” She echoed Simon’s sentiments about hockey being a fun, somewhat haphazard activity to do with friends, citing the traditions their team has built around the time spent on the ice.
“A lot of times we’ll go get food at late-night afterwards. We have an assigned ‘pep talk person’ for every game and they're in charge of giving the pep talk that week, so they really set the tone for the game,” laughed Taylor. “We also have a chant that everyone has memorized. I wish I could share it, but it's top secret. And we dress in theme.”
Team We Luv Hockey has only had one game so far this season, and Taylor said that they attempted a “Kentucky Derby” theme for their first outing on the ice this term, though Simon pointed out that there was an obstacle in their way.
“We didn’t get a good [outfit] because we said ‘Let’s wear hats,’” said Simon. “But we can’t do that, because we had to wear helmets.”
Luckily, Team We Luv Hockey will have plenty more opportunities to skate in style, as they’ve only played two games so far, the first of which Taylor described as “a smashing success.”
“We only lost by one,” she said.
The second game was even more of a triumph, according to Taylor. Team We Luv Hockey defeated the “Frozen Chickens” on Tuesday after a last-minute goal sent a 5-5 game into overtime. This time, the team pulled together a “sparkly mermaid” theme.
IM hockey is challenging without being competitive, which is certainly part of the appeal. Johnson sees it as an enjoyable, low-pressure environment for spending time with friends.
“I like doing casual sports — particularly casual sports — that I’m not the greatest at,” Johnson said. “When I’m actually good at things, I get competitive, so when I’m just fumbling around, it’s easier to have fun.”
Games are usually scheduled between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. a few nights a week, so even though intramural hockey is purely for fun, it can still be tough to set aside other commitments and brave the cold — though Johnson attested that it’s always a worthwhile experience.
“At the end of the day, I’m not playing IM hockey because I actually love hockey — I’ve never played [non-recreational hockey] before,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s truly just a way to hang out with friends in a really fun way and be active. I definitely always leave it in a better mood than when I came in.”