It is hard to find a student at Geneseo who can say that they have never attended an Ice Knights hockey game at some point during their college career. How many people, however, can say that they have attended a Geneseo Bears ice hockey game? The ratio doesn’t compare, but with the rising popularity of women’s ice hockey, the fan section of the Bears’ games is certainly growing.
The Bears are the Geneseo’s women’s club ice hockey team. Founded in 2006, the team is getting more and more recognition each year. This year is especially important, marking the Bears’ first year in a competitive women’s league—the Women’s Upstate New York Club Hockey League. What makes the league even more special is that it was founded by Bears president junior goalkeeper Liane Livote with help from the Upstate New York Club Hockey League commissioner.
The women involved clearly put in a lot of time and effort to make the team—and league—what it is. Junior captain Sarah Mancuso expressed her delight to be a part of this new league. This is her second year as captain, and she explained that she will work for every opportunity to help the Bears succeed.
“The newly formed WUNYCHL consists of women's collegiate club teams in two divisions: east and west. Each team has one home game and one away game with each of the other teams in their division. At the end of the season, there will be playoffs to determine the winning team in each division, and those teams will compete for the overall league title,” Mancuso said. “Prior to the formation of the league, women's club teams scheduled games independently and there were no playoffs to end the season. We are very excited to have the opportunity to compete in the WUNYCHL, as it provides more of an incentive for the team to continuously work toward posting a winning record.”
One of the more notable things about the Bears is that they are always welcoming new players, even those who may have little to no experience ice-skating. Practices are split up between game players and practice players—the more experienced players and the beginners. Offering the option to join the team as a practice player provides many inexperienced women the opportunity to try a new sport and the supportive and enthusiastic team dynamic makes it a great time for all.
The captains of the team run practices. Players from the men’s club hockey team also volunteer and help out during practices and games as well. Senior Alex Hahn noted that he has managed to take the time from his own club ice hockey and varsity track schedules to help the women out during the past two years. Hahn stressed his support for the new players and their courage to come out for the team.
“It is not the most accessible sport and college is a good time to try new things,” Hahn said. “Interest in the sport is certainly a good thing.”
Mancuso expressed a similar outlook regarding the new players. “Women's hockey has been gaining popularity for years, but women's teams are still not as common as men's teams. Many of our new players grew up in areas in which women's hockey was not popular, so it is a novelty for them to have the opportunity to learn how to play,” she said. “I think it's great that we have been able to spread the popularity of women's hockey and provide students with new opportunities.”
The encouraging environment the Geneseo Bears foster is part of what makes them such a unique organization. After their first win of the season during their first game on Sunday Nov. 15 against the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Bears are off to a great start in their new league and look to continue their success.