The art of hockey emerges during Shrine retreat

saint michael's hockey scoreboardEight wonderfully detailed miniature hockey rinks on display in front of the Ross Sports Center trophy cases recently elicited delighted smiles and appreciative "wows" from passers-by.

Chris Donovan, Saint Michael's women's ice hockey coach, says he came up with the idea of having his players break into groups to design and build the mini-rinks as a bonding activity during a weekend team retreat in September at the freshly constructed/renovated facilities of St. Anne's Shrine in the Champlain Islands, run by the Society of Saint Edmund.

Personalities and backgrounds of the team members shine through in each original creation. For instance, it wasn't hard to figure out which group had an engineering major, or which players had more whimsical sensibilities in constructing their mini-masterpieces from only foam board, cellophane, pins and pointed wooden sticks - and a lot of teamwork and imagination. "When I saw how far they took it, I was just kind of blown away," Coach Donovan said. "They're beautiful."

Meaghan Leong of Cohasset, MA, an electrical engineering major and junior goalie, helped her group engineer players who were movable by lever action in the manner of a table hockey game to populate their "ice," and the group used a cantilever design to suspend a "scoreboard." One rink was inspired by the hockey movie "Mystery, Alaska" and had the delicate fantasy feel of a winter wonderland in a Japanese garden, with snow on mini-shrubs surrounding the playing surface, which featured a mellow blue tint. Two rinks featured little Zambonis - one yellow, one black - each with Saint Michael's logos. Others had detailed colored advertising for real-life brands along the boards.

A particularly imaginative touch on one rink was a "crowd" of pin-people, while some others had empty but still impressive seating areas as part of the design. Most included creative scoreboards either suspended over the center or off to the side. One of the more elaborate of these was created from a box that held souvenir Shrine mugs that team members received from their weekend host, Father Brian Cummings SSE, director of Edmundite Campus Ministry. It was primarily Cummings who oversaw development of the new retreat facility, which he hopes will have regular use from campus groups. The facility now has comfortable heated cabins for visitors, dining facilities and meeting halls, along with its breathtaking lakeside location on Isle LaMotte. "The facility was tremendous," says Donovan. "You can relax but also get things accomplished because it's so quiet." The groups created their rinks in just under 4 hours, he said. "They're hockey players and have played on a rink for 10, 12, 14 years, but they've probably never thought about what goes into putting a hockey rink together," he said.

Donovan was most pleased by the way his players worked together to achieve a common goal with each person having a meaningful role. "On our team we have science majors, business majors, journalism majors, and as time goes on you see the emergence of their personalities and it's great to see," he said. Women's ice hockey hits the ice for roster-setting tryouts and practices starting Oct. 15, and has its first game Nov. 2 in Potsdam.