Anastos says "there isn't a lot of talent, but there's a lot of courage" at MSU Women's Hockey Clinic

Anastos says

EAST LANSING - Walking into Michigan State’s Munn Ice Arena, one wouldn’t hear the usual sounds.

And not the usual sight.

If one gazed down on the ice, he or she would notice pony tails and clumsy skating, falls and loud laughter.

It wouldn’t be the Spartan hockey team practicing, working out or just hanging out, it was girls learning how to shred the ice.

Michigan State hockey head coach Tom Anastos, wife Lisa
Anastos and the entire Spartan hockey staff teamed up for a five-hour Women’s Hockey Clinic on August 15.

Much different from the athletes they usually dealt with, some of the women in the group were completely inexperienced, including HOMTV’s Bri Harvey and myself.

As each clinic member arrived into Munn Arena, Anastos awaited to measure the tall, wooden hockey stick to the girl’s height, so that he could cut it to fit her.

Soon after everyone had their sticks, the group stretched,
learned how to tape their sticks and watched as Kelly Miller and some players taught the basics of puck handling – and made it look easy.

Miller proceeded to take the group on a tour of the facility, showing the mural of Spartans in the NHL, the press room, the training room and different offices.

All of it, leading to the most important room in the entire arena.

Having signed up for the camp, a bag of equipment – 20 pounds – awaited each girl in the locker room.

Eyes sparkles and phones were held up to take pictures as soon as each woman saw their own name in place of a player’s.

It was as if they were Michigan State hockey players, not just visitors.

After explaining traditions and saying encouraging words – some people, like Harvey, had never skated in their lives (but she was proud of her two goals by the end of the night) –, he walked us step-by-step on how to put on the equipment.

All of the other coaches and players walked around the locker room, in case the women needed help.

Thinking about putting on 20 pounds of gear is easy, doing it is an entire different story.

"How many were surprised by the amount of gear?" Anastos asked the attendees. "Gained 20 pounds, lost it in an hour, that's pretty good."

While all attempted and tried to go through each step without assistance, most, including Harvey and I, asked for help multiple times, not knowing which part was up or down, and left or right.

About an hour went by in the locker room.

After all of the workout to put on the equipment, it was finally time for the real workout: skating time.

It started out with a few laps around the rink, then some shooting, passing and puck handling drills, all in preparation for the scrimmage.

With wobbly strides and wide open eyes in search of the puck, the women, who were already divided into teams green and white, battles each other.

Both teams had help from the varsity players, who acted as goalies, teams were able to make passes and even score a few times.

A big group photo ended the time on the ice, making everyone realize how sweaty they were – at least for me, hockey, being played in short bursts, was a huge workout.

"The game is played in such a pace, that you have to go in short bursts," Anastos said.

All women changed then headed to one of the rooms overlooking the rink for dinner and a Q&A.

Tom and Lisa answered questions from the training and equipment necessary to play hockey, to curiosities about this year’s team and the NCAA rules.

"Take a guess on the possession of the puck, if you have it a lot, what that might be," Tom said. "If you have it even a minute and a half, that's a lot. Think about how important it is to play well when you don't have the pick, because that's the majority of the time."

As Tom patiently explained all that the women wanted to know, he said that what impressed him the most at the clinic, was how courteous and helpful the incoming Spartan hockey players were.

"I was elated with how our guys presented themselves today," he said. "That was the first time we've seen it."

With hockey being a winter sport, Tom isn’t allowed to coach the players until the first day of school, so that was his first look at who they are as a person, and not just great hockey players, he said.

The end of the night approached with talks with coaches and new friends who mingled after dinner.

Overall, it wasn’t a night for simply learning the game of hockey, but a time for fun and seeing that the game is just a part of a bigger process of how to be great at hockey.

The MSU Women’s Hockey Clinic offered many women who have always wanted to play hockey (but who have grown up in a country that doesn’t have it), like me, a chance to learn this fast, exciting sport.

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