Icy Hot, the all-female team Ketschek is a part of, poses after a win. She said the name was “fitting for the ‘mature’ and primarily newbie status of our players.” PHOTO COURTESY OF KATE KETSCHEK

Suit up

Hockey happenings this season

Kate Ketschek, chair of the Big Sky Community Organization (BSCO), first started playing league hockey in Big Sky three years ago after seeing a Facebook post from her friend Natalie Osborne.

Osborne wanted to put together a team and it morphed into the first all-female group. “Our team keeps evolving and we’re still an all-female team this year,” Ketschek said.

“It’s quite a learning curve,” Ketschek continued. She grew up playing field hockey and mentioned another girl on their team was an ice hockey goalie back east. Even so, the three on three field hockey format divides the rink in half horizontally to allow for the A and B leagues to play at the same time. The U-shaped goal is tiny, Ketschek described, a few puck lengths wide.

Essentially, the pace is fast, and the space is small and a challenge to skating veterans and newcomers—of which Ketschek said there are many—alike.

If a person is looking to try out field hockey but nervous about falling and getting banged up, Ketschek said the padding takes care of that worry. “The pads that you wear playing hockey give a boost of confidence,” she explained. She wears breezers—long shorts that provide padding for the butt and hips—elbow pads, gloves and a helmet.

Ketschek’s daughter has participated in the Big Sky Skating and Hockey Association (BSSHA) beginner instructional program for three years and will likely move up this season. The kids in this program learn all the basics: how to turn, stay upright and how to stop.

“She pretty much is up for anything,” Ketschek said of her daughter. “We were looking for a weeknight activity for her to do.” It was a way to get some of her energy out and have something to look forward to during the week.

Ketschek laughed as she remembered videoing one of her daughter’s beginning sessions. Kids were falling over left and right. As the season came to a close, the transition was huge. “The progress I saw in her just over a season is amazing,” she said.

The same could be said to describe the process of opening the rink this season. Quite a few hurdles to jump and changes made due to community center construction defined the path to opening. 

This season, the little rink next to the hockey rink will be unavailable because of construction. The warming hut will only be used during programming due to coronavirus concerns.

Ryan Bletcha, president of BSSHA, knew they were going to face some uncertainly this season, but now that some questions have been answered, the goal is to open the rink next week. “It’s just kind of a process that takes some time,” he said.

As examples of the process, a structure will be built around the chiller to block the noise for those living nearby; the rink is located in the same place but at a different elevation due to the Base construction; tubes had to be stored outside, not in concrete, as was planned for this year; BSSHA is working in a small space and trying to keep out of construction crews’ way; and delivery delays due to the coronavirus and hurricanes down south led to some setbacks.

It comes down to there’s a handful of us on the board that know how to get the system going and there’s pieces and parts that need to be in line,” Bletcha explained. Getting the rink up and running is a full-time job done by board members who have other full-time jobs. With those jobs and quarantine situations, it’s been tough, Bletcha said.

“We always prevail, and we’ll get it open,” he said.

Ketschek loves seeing the traffic to the rink and the popularity of different activities ranging from curling to youth hockey to adult three on three leagues.

“BSSHA has done a phenomenal job for creating an awesome program for both adults and kids in Big Sky in the winter,” she said.

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