Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


‘This is my dream come true’

The players stare in concentration as Porkchop glides down
the rink. She leans and spins in a flawless semicircle, her skates spraying ice
against the scratched glass. It is an abrupt stop, a move that baffled some
beginning hockey players last Tuesday night at the Madison Ice Arena.

Brenda Seggerman, known as Porkchop, coaches weekly
practices for the Madison Gay Hockey Association, a league where gay and
straight individuals can learn about hockey, teamwork and community.

?I personally needed this,? MGHA founder Patrick Farabaugh
said. ?That?s why I started it. That need was genuine and something … that
transcends the human condition ? realizing that I needed something and other
people might need it too.?


Farabaugh formerly played in the New York City Gay Hockey
Association, worked for a magazine and lived in a spacious Manhattan apartment.
He moved to Madison after he woke up one day and said, ?This is not for me;
This is not what I value,? Farabaugh said.

Farabaugh formed the league about two years ago as a haven
for acceptance and a social alternative to bars and nightlife, and it soon
became the largest and fastest-growing gay hockey association in the country.

?As soon as I walked through [the arena?s] doors and felt
that crisp chill of the air on my breath; as soon as I heard the sound of
hockey sticks slapping the pucks echo off the rink boards, and the scratches
from skate blades cutting the ice, something inside of me woke up again,?
Farabaugh wrote in a memoir.

But it wasn?t easy. Although Gov. Jim Doyle and Mayor Dave
Cieslewicz supported the league with endorsement letters, some wondered if the
league would attract enough members.

?Some people were hit with hesitation because they didn?t
know where I would even find gay hockey players in a city this size,? Farabaugh
said. ?What they didn?t understand is that it wasn?t my intention to find gay
hockey players. It was to make them.?

University of Wisconsin alumna Jane Schneider never played
hockey before, but when she learned about MGHA through a friend, she joined
right away.

According to Schneider, the league is not just about meeting
other gay people; it?s also about being part of a team. The Thunder, as the
league is known as, provides a non-judgmental environment where the LGBT
community and allies can come together, she said.

?I never had a chance to play hockey, so this is my dream
come true,? Schneider said. ?I?m not really comfortable going out to the bar
scene, and I think a lot of people feel that way. Though a lot of us have been
athletes, some haven?t, and this is their first chance to play team sports.?

The league welcomes athletes of all experience levels,
genders and sexual orientations. About 90 members are arranged into six teams,
and players are evenly distributed based on skill.

Although teams do not practice together, players can reserve
spots in weekly clinics for drills and scrimmages. Games are held every Sunday.

Since levels of hockey experience are mixed on every team,
it is a beginner-friendly environment, said Michelle Watkins, president of the
MGHA board.

About 15 people come to practices, during which old members
help newbies with passing, shooting and general skating. The youngest members
are 18-year-olds from UW, and the oldest are in their early 60s, according to

?I could barely skate around the rink last August,?
Schneider said. ? But look at me now: I can skate, when before I couldn?t even
leave the side of the rink.?

Seggerman, who coached Schneider since she started playing
two years ago, said Schneider ?looked like she was 80? when she started.

According to Watkins, who is also the first female league
president in the country, the community is close because its players feel safe
taking risks.

?We spend a lot of time building relationships,? Watkins
said. ?A lot of people feel fear when trying a new sports, and it?s a scary
thing when you don?t consider yourself an athlete.?

Watkins said Madison is different from her other experiences
with gay hockey leagues because the Thunder lacks gender competition and
focuses on development. High school gay-straight alliances run the concession
stand during games, and the GHA hosts its annual Blades Against Aids night, an
event in which community members can skate to benefit aids.

?It also surprised me that we have a lot of straight people
on the league,? Watkins said. ?They?re not out there saying ?I?m not gay!?
either, they?re just playing like the rest of us. That speaks to where we are
as a community; they?re not worrying about what other people think about them.?

The league?s unity is evident at Sunday games, where parents,
community members and players from other teams cheer on the players.

To Seggerman, the most rewarding part of her job is seeing
the reactions when novices score their first goal.

According to Watkins, the excitement is contagious. It can
be an exercise in humility to show up every week when a teammate keeps falling,
but the players picture themselves getting better and getting through it, she

?I can skate and stop now, but it?s not always perfect. It?s
not 100 percent,? Schneider said. ?Well ? it?s kind of a slow stop.?

Typographical errors in spacing that appeared in the original copy were corrected.

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