Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pucker up — Hockey moms don’t mind Palin’s humor

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

“You know what they say about the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?

“Lipstick,” according to Gov. Sarah Palin, in an unscripted line now famous from her speech accepting the vice presidential nomination to run with John McCain at the Republican National Convention on Sept. 3.

And what, exactly, makes a hockey mom? According to mothers at a Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association game at the Soldotna Sports Center on Sunday, it’s first and foremost dedication.

“It’s the dedication thing, for sure,” said Laurie Johnson, whose soon-to-be-16-year-old son, Eric Johnson, was skating for the Ice Hawks against an Anchorage team Sunday.

Betty Bea was sitting with Johnson in the stands above the rink. It’s a spot she’s well accustomed to, having been a hockey mom while her son, Johnny Bea, played hockey for Kenai Central when he was in high school, and played for the Alaska Aces in 1994. Now she’s sort of a hockey grandma and comes out to watch Eric play.

“On a (competition) team level it takes a lot of dedication to be at games, and be part of the team,” Bea said.

Bea said she isn’t a McCain supporter and she differs from Palin on issues like earmarks and abortion, but said she thinks Palin’s nomination is good for women.

“I’m not necessarily a Republican, but I think she could probably do the job,” Bea said. “I would like to see her with more experience, but she’s the governor, so that certainly qualifies her for the job she’d be doing.”

Being a hockey mom is a life experience in and of itself, and all experiences contribute to a person’s abilities.

“I don’t know if that qualifies her (to be vice president),” Bea said. “I don’t know that that qualifies me, but that’s experience.”

“And she’s right about the lipstick line,” she said. “We can get pretty aggressive.”

“A lot of people think there’s too much fighting — ” Bea said, interrupting herself to cheer for the Ice Hawks as they scored a goal. “ — but it’s really no different than any other sport.”

In Pam Johnson’s experience, being a hockey mom means being an expert juggler.

“You organize around your child’s schedule,” she said.

If you’re not at the hockey rink or driving to or from the hockey rink, you’re making sure your kids are eating and getting their homework done and getting sleep.

“You dress warm in the middle of the winter,” said Christie Stinnett, of Soldotna. Her son, Joshua, now a sophomore at Soldotna High School, has been playing hockey for eight or nine years now.

“And you make sure the kids have feet warmers in their boots so they don’t freeze,” Johnson, of Sterling, added. She was at the rink to watch her son, Tyler, also a sophomore at SoHi.

Johnson said she was excited about Palin’s nomination.

“I got a T-shirt that says ‘Go Sarah’ on it,” she said. “I think it’s awesome, period. Honestly, I think she’s done a lot for the state in the time she’s been a governor.”

She agrees with Palin’s quip.

“Hockey moms tend to be a little aggressive, but that’s beside the point,” she said.

Sitting above the rink, she carried on conversations, talked on a cell phone and drank her coffee, but her attention and vocal chords were primarily dedicated to the game.

“Go Ice Hawks!” she yelled at one point, followed with various exclamations of “Go!” “Watch him!” and other encouragements.

“… And we all think we can coach better than the coach,” she added to the list of a hockey mom’s description.

Mostly being a hockey mom means being devoted.

“Devotion to your kids. They need good sportsmanship, and aggressiveness, but you’ve got to juggle between them,” Johnson said.

There was no mistaking Dena Cunningham’s hockey mom status as she stood next to the boards Sunday, wearing a KPHA jacket with “Morgan’s mom” printed on the back and visibly cringing whenever her son was involved in a collision.

Cunningham said being a hockey mom isn’t any different than a soccer mom, or any sports parent who supports their child’s activity — except being a little more prepared for cold. For her, with 15-year-old Morgan, hockey has been a longtime devotion.

“I’m going to be sad when my son isn’t playing hockey anymore. You become a big family over the years. He’s been skating with them since the kids were 5. You get to know the families and siblings and watch the kids grow up,” she said.
Cunningham said she taped Palin’s speech and stayed up until 1 a.m. watching it.

“I think that since I’ve been aware of Sarah in the political arena in Alaska, I think she has done a great job for Alaska,” she said. “She’s well-spoken, I think she’s a straight shooter. I think she has so much energy, She’s positive. … I think her strong point is she’s a real person, not a career politician. You don’t have to wonder what spin she’s putting on something.”

She said she laughed when she heard Palin’s hockey mom remark.

“It was funny when I heard it. I wasn’t offended by it,” she said. “… It showed her tough side.”

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