It’s understandable if other New England-based girls’ hockey organizations are envious of the Minuteman Lady Flames.
The Lady Flames, who were founded in 2001, play their home games in arguably the region’s premier facility: the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Mass. It includes six NCAA-regulation ice surfaces under one roof, replete with several locker rooms, a pro shop and a concession stand.
“By having a facility of this nature, we’re able to have practices at reasonable hours,” Lady Flames general manager Garry Holmes said. “For example, we can practice between 5:30 and 9 p.m. instead of, say, 6 a.m.
“Obviously, we’re able to offer attractive times for practices and games. The number of ice sheets is without question a tremendous help.”
The New England Sports Center also has done something else that’s impacted the growth of the Lady Flames.
The organization only had three teams during its initial 2001-02 season. Since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, it’s expanded to 10 teams. The teams range from 8-and-Under to 19-and-Under (some age groups include minor and major teams) and encompass over 150 girls.
This season the Lady Flames play in the Eastern Hockey Federation and the New England Girls Hockey League.
Earlier this season the U-10 Lady Flames went 5-0 en route to capturing the Connecticut Polar Bear championship. In addition the same team annexed the Cape Cod Waves Cranberry Classic 10 C title. And last season the U-12 Lady Flames advanced to nationals.
The organization runs a Sparks Cross-Ice Program, which, in effect, is a combination learn-to-skate/learn-to-play hockey program for girls who are five and six years old on Sunday mornings.
“We’re fortunate to have [NESC Alternate Director] Wes Tuttle,” Holmes said. “He’s allowed us to run free learn-to-skate programs in the summer. One year we expected maybe 15 or 16 girls to show up but we wound up with over 40.
“As girls progress through learn to skate, they develop passion for the game. And there’s nothing better than having that cross-ice program. It’s so much better than skating in circles and going through typical drills. It gives the girls a chance to develop their hockey skills.”
Realistically not every girl who plays for the Lady Flames will make her high school team let alone play hockey in college. But the program provides girls with the opportunity to develop their skills so they may be able to continue playing hockey.
“The program is geared toward girls who want to play high school hockey either at a private school or a public high school,” Holmes said. “It also prepares them if they want to play hockey after graduating high school.
“When the program began, we only had three teams and they were young teams. Since then, we’ve had several girls go on and play hockey in college at the Division I and Division III levels.”
While developing skills is an obvious part of the Lady Flames’ philosophy, an emphasis also is placed on developing character.
“The goals of the program always have been to develop young women with character, self-confidence and leaderships skills,” Holmes said. “Hard work, discipline, teamwork and friendships are other life lessons we feel are taught by a great game.”
The Lady Flames have become so popular that their membership extends beyond the borders of Massachusetts and into neighboring states like Connecticut and Rhode Island.
“This speaks well of our organization that so many girls from Connecticut and Rhode Island have made commitments,” Holmes said. “Some kids come from as far away as Pomfret [Conn.] and may encounter rush-hour traffic.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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