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Lacey MiddlesteadLacey Middlestead is a Montana native and freelance writer currently living in Helena, Mont. She loves meeting new people and helping share their stories. When she’s not busy writing articles for newspapers like the Independent Record and Helena Vigilante, she can usually be found indulging in her second greatest passion–playing in the Montana wilderness. She loves skiing and snowmobiling in the winter and four wheeling, hiking, boating, and riding dirt bikes in the summer.

The family that skates together stays together!

When I first started playing hockey about a year and a half ago, it was at my dad’s insistence. He has played hockey since he was a kid, but when he heard the rink in Helena was starting a novice league, he couldn’t sign me up fast enough. I was skeptical of the idea at first. Sure, I’d watched NHL hockey on television, but there is a serious difference between watching and playing. Those guys on TV move like they were born with blades for feet. But after he purchased me a brand new pair of Easton skates and a full suite of hockey gear, I knew there was no going back. My only reassurance was that my dad agreed to skate in the novice league with me in addition to the advanced men’s leagues.

That first season of hockey was a total blast. I never would’ve dreamed I’d love it as much as I did. Since I’m an only child, my dad never had the opportunity to pass on his love for the sport to a son. It took me 26 years or so, but I finally filled that space for him. It felt special playing with my dad and having him right beside me on the ice when I scored my first goal. And honestly, how many men can say they play hockey with their daughters?

When my second season of hockey started up last year, I was pleasantly surprised to see a second father-daughter duo hit the ice. Paul, one of the guys my dad and I played with during my first season, recruited his daughter, Celena, to play. Celena was in her freshman year at Carroll College yet never let our 11 p.m. games on a school night slow her down. Partway through the season, Celena’s mom and brother-in-law also started playing on our league. They had enough family playing to make up their own line of forwards and have one defenseman.

I always figured it was just by sheer coincidence that the members from two different families loved playing together. This season, however, proved me wrong.

When I heaved my giant hockey bag into the locker room for the first game this season I was ecstatic to see four or five girls dressing. After beginning to converse with them, I learned that two of the ladies had been talked into playing by their husbands who also played with us. Both were beginner skaters and still learning to navigate the task of putting on all of their gear. I remember being in that same moment myself and wondering where all of the dozens of Velcro straps went.  One of the ladies mentioned having relied on closely watching her son get dressed in his gear to help.

It absolutely warms my heart to be out on the ice and see all of the encouraging and helpful family dynamics. What’s even better is that there are always smiles on all of our faces, regardless of if we fall down, miss a goal, or momentarily forget that stinkin’ offside rule. With kids, spouses, and siblings all out skating together, we make quite an interesting bunch. And during this week’s game on Sunday afternoon my fiancé, Andy, will be joining us for his first game of hockey. I watched with amusement last night as he practiced putting on all of his newly purchased gear for the first time. He had an anxious and excited look about him strapping it all on. When he finally stood up in all of and asked me to take his picture, I knew he was ready.

It is a hard task indeed to find a sport that all members of a family will participate in and truly love. But I can honestly say that hockey is one of them.