If you look around at any Hershey Bears game, you’ll notice a very strong base of female fans. In fact, 50% of fans in the stands are female. Wednesday night at Giant Center 100% of the fans were female for a first time event, “Hockey + Heels.” It was an interactive learning experience for 200 women, all of whom are Bears fans.
“It’s not a new idea,” said Bears President and General Manager Doug Yingst. “It has been used in the National Hockey League. It engages our female fans with more knowledge of the game, passing, shooting and what goes into the whole locker room atmosphere.”
Bears Coach Mike Haviland has done similar events in Chicago. “They are very knowledgeable and passionate about the game. They may be teaching us a couple things about hockey.”
Hockey + Heels was broken down into four different stations. First, Coach Haviland and Bears broadcaster Scott Stuccio spoke about rules, strategy and different technical aspects of the game. The fans also got a look at the behind the scenes operation of the Bears. It included a visit with Equipment Manager Justin Kullman to see the skate sharpening room that also serves as a workplace for equipment repair and laundry.
The group also saw the rehab pool where injured Bears workout on an underwater treadmill. They also paid a visit to the locker room where goaltender David Leggio showed his goalie equipment and other areas of the locker room along with forward Joel Rechlicz. Trainer Dan “Beaker” Stuck entertained with stories and his veteran perspective.
But the most interactive part of the evening was on the ice. Hockey + Heels provided the fans a chance to shoot and pass with Bears players. Garrett Mitchell and Nathan Walker worked with the women on shooting. Josh Brittain and Chay Genoway worked the other end of the ice with passing.
“It’s been a great turnout,” said Mitchell. “I can’t believe we have over 200 women here who want to learn more about our game. It’s awesome.” Nathan Walker was also impressed with the shooting techniques. “There have been some good shots out there,” said Walker. “It’s really been good.”
The most important reaction came from the participants themselves. “I thought it was fantastic,” said Hershey’s Laura Martin, who’s boyfriend has season tickets. “I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about hockey. Meeting with the coaches and players was very informative.”
“You come to the games and it’s so fast.” said Lewisberry’s Angela Wert. “You see something and you aren’t sure why they’d do that, because it doesn’t make sense to you. Maybe the play didn’t go the way you think it should have. They told us ‘it should have gone this way’ but they had to make it work a different way. It was great to hear”
The event quickly sold out and it’s probably a good bet that “Hockey + Heels” will become a regular feature each season at Giant Center.