Baby Boomer Marcy Garuccio says there’s just something about hockey. Because her son Paul, 16, has played the sport for nearly eight years, the term “hockey mom” was one that probably applied. But she took that a step further when she had an opportunity to skate with a women’s team herself. She loved the sport so much that she encouraged her daughter Leah, 22, to try it and Leah, too, was sold.
Both women skate for the Pittsburgh Piranhas, a competitive women’s ice hockey team playing out of Pittsburgh, PA. There probably aren’t any stats available for this sort of thing, but it’s fairly possible they are the only mother-daughter skating team in the country.
Marcy’s husband, Dominic, is the reason she is now a hockey player. He came home one day six years ago to tell her that a local team was holding tryouts for women players.
An active woman who had played three sports in high school and still ran almost every day, Marcy thought she would give it a shot. She had done some figure skating as a child, but had never had skating lessons.
Marcy has been skating ever since, one of 11 committed skaters who make up the Piranhas team, not an easy feat for a woman who just turned 45 but one that she enjoys immensely, sharing in the team’s growing success.
“I love my team,” the assistant captain says, adding with a laugh, “I’m the mom on the team.” Most of her teammates are between 18 and 30 years old.
Besides staying fit and playing a sport they love, the Piranhas are no different than any other hockey team: they want to win. They won their first tournament this month (the 2006 Circle City Spring Invitational in Indianapolis), and came up just a little short in another, losing in the championship game.
Marcy earned a nickname when she signed on after being given an unused jersey with #82 on it. From that point forward, everyone involved with the team began to call her “Marty.”
Marcy, who had never had a nickname growing up, now had one she didn’t quite get. Only later did she learn that since she was wearing #82, the team was likening her to Marty Straka, who was then skating for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The nickname has stuck, and even her family members call her Marty sometimes.
In a sport where it appears to spectators that players are simply gliding on ice -- and just how hard can that be? -- the legs get an extreme workout, especially those that are 45 years old.
Marcy, who plays defense along with her partner Nikki Jacobs, doesn’t notice that she is more sore or tired than the other women, but sometimes she worries that she’s not as fast on the ice as her teammates. Leah says that’s not true: “I think my mom is a great example to me and the rest of the team that age is just a number. It doesn’t have to determine the way you feel.”
The Piranhas celebrate their first tournament win in Indianapolis.
Marcy admits that if she is off the ice for too many days, “I have to work to get my hockey legs back,” through a once-weekly practice and running a mile or three on her own. She makes sure when she travels to tournaments that she has a hotel room with her own bed so she can toss and turn and work out some of the kinks.
She has recovered from an MCL tear in her knee which happened about three years ago when her skate caught an edge on the ice and she went down. Her physical therapist made her work hard to repair the damage, allowing her to avoid surgery. “I hated physical therapy,” she says now, “I couldn’t run or play hockey. But PT was the best thing I could have done to repair the knee. I would say my knee is stronger now than it has ever been.”
Along with her business partner and close friend, Patty Helms, Marcy owns Health Care Billing Associates, a 16-year-old medical billing company based in Beaver, PA.
The Piranhas are an even bigger family affair than just the mom and daughter connection, part of what makes the team so much fun. Leah’s fiancé, Todd Kordecki (they will marry in May), helps to coach the team, along with Head Coach Sam Menchyk whose wife, Jane, is also on the team and Assistant Coach Jason Markowitz.
Marcy’s daughter, Marissa, a student at Robert Morris University, hasn’t caught the hockey bug yet, thanks to a hectic college schedule. Paul plays for his high school hockey team and is proud of his mom. It’s a given to say that none of Paul’s friends have moms who play ice hockey.
“I think sometimes he is embarrassed because it’s so rare, but it’s funny because his friends think it’s pretty cool,” Marcy says. A few years ago, Paul’s Beaver County team was playing in a tournament in Columbus, OH and Marcy was playing in a game the same day about five miles away. “A bunch of Paul’s teammates and their parents came to watch and cheer me on,” she recalls. “They almost missed their game because they got lost on the way back to their tournament. I thought it was really nice that they came to watch us.”
Leah, a marketing coordinator for Berner International who plays center for the Piranhas, says having her mom with her on the same team is no big deal and she is grateful that Marcy got her interested. “My mom was the sole reason I started playing hockey. Both of us have always really enjoyed competition and exercise. When I lived at home we went running together, so us playing hockey together was never that weird to me. I love the sport, and it is nice to share that with her,” Leah says.
Marcy is an example to everyone on the team, and to other Baby Boomers looking for a fun way to get and stay fit. “If I can do this,” she says, “I can do anything. I would really like to encourage anyone my age to go for it. Don’t be afraid to try something new.”
To see more photos of the team or to find out more information, visit www.pittsburghpiranhas.com.
By Teresa K. Flatley