Women’s Ice Hockey Team Traveled to Ireland as Ambassadors of their Sport and as Scholars

Ireland may be best-loved for rolling green fields that earned it the nickname Emerald Isle but women's ice hockey Head Coach Erin Hamlen and her team visited the country over the winter break to help spread the popularity of their sport and to experience another culture.
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 05th January 2020 - Photo by William Cherry/PresseyeMoira Doherty, Deputy Secretary at the Department for Communities, performs the ceremonial puck drop with Merrimack Warriors captain Chloe Cook and Quinnipiac Bobcats captain Kenzie Prater during Sunday afternoons NCAA Friendship Series at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Merrimack played Quinnipiac University in two non-league games as part of their regular-season schedule. Even though they lost both games of the Friendship Series, the players came out as a stronger team, Hamlen said. 

“The educational experience out of this was so worthwhile and the team bonded. We couldn’t have done that anywhere else,” Hamlen said. “We did things out there that will foster team cohesion the rest of the way out.”

The team flew out of Logan on a red-eye flight Dec. 30 and returned home Jan. 6. After landing in Dublin on New Year’s Eve, the players and staff spent a couple of days adjusting to the time change and touring before going to the SSE Arena in Belfast for some ice time on Jan. 2.

The games were played Saturday and Sunday before the hometown professional men’s Belfast Giants took to the ice.

It was exciting to experience another culture and serve as an ambassador for the sport, said defenseman Chloe Cook, 21, an English and communications dual major from Penticton, British Columbia.

“We had people say what a great example we are for young girls,” Cook said. “We showed them what they can accomplish in hockey.”

To prepare for the trip, Hamlen enlisted the help of professor emerita Kathleen Shine Cain, a former English Department chair. Shine Cain is also an expert on Ireland and the Troubles, which was the conflict over whether to end British rule in Northern Ireland or let it be part of the Republic of Ireland to the south. The conflict officially ended with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Since British rule supporters played soccer and Republican supporters played Gaelic football, hockey was introduced in the country as a non-sectarian sport that both sides could rally behind, Cain said.

“Without the background information that I provided in my presentation, team members would simply have been tourists,” she said. “With that information, they were able to appreciate the complexity of the culture they were spending time in.”

This was the second year of the women’s Friendship Series but the first time Merrimack has taken part. As much as the team values the trip, it won’t be returning soon, Hamlen said. NCAA rules only allow teams to travel every four years.

A similar tournament for collegiate men’s ice hockey called the Friendship Four has been held annually since 2015.


Related News

VPA Poster for A Wrinkle in Time

VPA Welcomes Back Alums for Fall 2023 Show “A Wrinkle In Time”

By: Lauren Pardue
Dr. Kathleen Sills, Director of Theatre Arts, brings a blend of old and new faces in her upcoming production of “A Wrinkle In Time."
Portrait of the Lampkin sisters.

Lampkin Sisters’ Combined Skills Key to Merrimack Bowling Success

By: Joseph O'Connell
The twins transferred to Merrimack for the bowling team's inaugural season in 2022 and have played a significant role in shaping the program's success and culture.
Headshot of Meghan Van Burren (Farrer)

Alumni Spotlight: Meghan Van Buren (Farrer)

By: Lauren Pardue
‘06 Graduate Meghan Van Buren sits down with VPA to discuss her life, career, and her time back at the College.