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Family and Fun On Display in Helena Novice League

By Greg Bates, 11/26/17, 6:45AM MST


League welcomes anyone, from strangers to relatives, and all skill levels

Lacey Galen grew up skating with her father, Glenn Middlestead.

The two would get on the ice in Helena, Montana and father would teach daughter a few things.

Fast forward a few decades and Middlestead, now 59, is teaching his 30-year-old daughter how to play hockey. What makes it better is the two are on the same adult hockey team, the Helena Novice League.

“He taught me how to play, where to be on the ice, what to look for,” Galen said. “He was kind of my personal coach on the ice.”

What makes it even more fun is Galen’s 30-year-old husband, Andy, is also on the team. In fact, there are five combinations of either husband/wife, father/daughter or sisters in the Helena Novice League. At one point, the team was up to seven combinations of family members.

“It’s neat to be able to play with my husband and my father,” Galen said. “It’s a game all three of us love now.”

The novice league has just two teams, so the teams don’t go by specific nicknames, just the league name. The league has about 30 players — 10 being women — split into the two teams. Most of the players are new to the sport.

“A lot of the players are starting because their kids are playing youth hockey,” team captain Lance Wilson said. “Most of us never played hockey growing up. It’s a chance for husbands and wives, fathers and daughters and sons to all play together.”

Wilson plays on Helena Novice League with his wife, Christie. The 42-year-old got into hockey two years ago when his son, Benjamin, took up the sport. Now his daughter, Cammie, is also playing.

“It’s fun to get out there and see the competitiveness come out of everybody, even though it’s a novice league,” Wilson said. “Usually the season starts out a little slow because we have some first-time players that have never played before and work them in and get them used to the rules and whatnot — then continue to speed up the game as we go.”

Wilson enjoys getting on the ice and learning the game with his wife.

“When we first started we’d try and give each other some pointers or whatnot and sometimes that gets into kind of a dispute, so it’s just become another player, basically,” Wilson said. “You try to keep it that way and have fun.”

Galen, her father and husband all get along well while playing. They all try to get together frequently on non-gamedays to work on their on-ice chemistry.

“We have a good dynamic,” Galen said. “We’ve learned to play well with each other. When we play on a line, practice together, we kind of know where the other one’s going to be.”

The family combinations have now been playing together for a few seasons, so camaraderie has been building up. Galen enjoys seeing the interest from other families around the Helena community.

“Honestly, after me and my dad and my husband started playing more and more family members started playing,” Galen said. “I think they’ve seen the three of us skating and the husbands have gone home and told their wives, ‘Hey, you should come and try this out.’

“I think our family’s kind of helped grow the family dynamic with everyone else playing in it.”

A lot of the players in Helena Novice League didn’t know each other prior to joining the league. Now, some of the parents coach together and skate on the same adult team.

“We go from traveling tournaments with the kids to playing against each other in the novice league,” Wilson said. “It’s a great group of people, and we have a lot of fun with it.”

Learning how to play hockey has really opened up Wilson’s eyes and helped him bond and relate with his son. Since he now knows the sport, Wilson feels comfortable offering advice to his son.

“I’ve been playing defense on the novice league and he’s more defensive-minded and he likes to be playing goalie and defense,” Wilson said. “We try to put him in as a wing and to push the puck and carry it up and be that way, [but] he has a tendency if it’s going the other way to get right back in front to help on the defense.

“It’s gotten a lot [more fun] since I’ve gotten to know the game and kind of watched it progress and helping the kids out.”

Galen loves playing in the Helena Novice League because it’s such a loose group of players who like to go out and enjoy themselves on the ice.

“It’s all about fun and learning to play the game and just having good camaraderie,” Galen said. “I’ve watched some of the other upper leagues and a lot of the team members will get mad at each other if their shifts are too long or they miss a shot. Our team, we’re cheering each other on. And if somebody on the other team gets their first goal, we’re cheering for them, too.”

It’s a very supportive team that encourages every player, especially beginners.

“When we get back in the locker room after a game, we’re always telling each other, ‘Wow, you had a great shot or you did really great playing D tonight,’” Galen said. “Just very supportive. We’re all very good friends.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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