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

Students performing onstage at Rogers Center for the Arts

VPA Announces Its Spring 2023 Calendar of Events

The Department of Visual and Performing Arts presents its spring 2023 exhibitions, senior capstones, and performance lineup. Enjoy unique exhibits in the McCoy Gallery, as well as performances in the Rogers Center.
A group of Merrimack students pose with a Merrimack flag inside a refugee clinic in Athens, Greece.

SEND Trips Send Merrimack College Students to Honduras, Greece, South Dakota

Merrimack’s alternative spring break program this year saw students participate in international service trips for the first time since 2019.
Headshot of Allison Gill

New Chapter for Allison Gill as Merrimack COO

Gill, who will mark 15 years at Merrimack next spring, was named the College’s chief operating officer this past summer and expanded her portfolio to oversight of all campus operations.