Category: 15-16 Essays

2015-2016 “What Gay Hockey Means to Me” Essays Published and Winner Announced

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Thank you to all the players who submitted essays this year. As always, they were thoughtful, moving, and help us all reflect on what gay hockey has come to mean for each of us.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”kelly bass” name=”Kelly Bass” position=”2015-2016 Essay Writer” image_url=”” animation=”off” background_layout=”light” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

Read Kelly’s Essay Here –


[/et_pb_team_member][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”sarah bottjen” name=”Sarah Bottjen” position=”2015-2016 Essay Writer” image_url=”” animation=”off” background_layout=”light” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

Read Sarah’s Essay Here –


[/et_pb_team_member][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”alpha” name=”Andrew %22Alpha%22 Brausen” position=”2015-2016 Essay Writer” image_url=”” animation=”off” background_layout=”light” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

Read Alpha’s Essay Here –


[/et_pb_team_member][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”shelly” name=”Shelly Kennedy” position=”2015-2016 Essay Writer” image_url=”” animation=”off” background_layout=”light” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

Read Shelly’s Essay Here –


[/et_pb_team_member][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”logan” name=”Logan Kirwin” position=”2015-2016 Essay Contest Winner” image_url=”” animation=”off” background_layout=”light” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

Logan will have next year’s league fees paid for and his essay will be published in Our Lives Magazine this summer.

Read Logan’s Essay Here –


[/et_pb_team_member][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”kelli” name=”Kelli Martino” position=”2015-2016 Essay Writer” image_url=”” animation=”off” background_layout=”light” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

Read Kelli’s Essay Here –


[/et_pb_team_member][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”chuck” name=”Chuck McKain” position=”2015-2016 Essay Writer” image_url=”” animation=”off” background_layout=”light” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

Read Chuck’s Essay Here –



Chuck McKain – 2015-2016 Essay

What Gay Hockey Means to Me

By Chuck McKain

Hockey was a constant for me throughout most of my childhood and teenage years. I started playing in the second grade and it quickly became my sport of choice. I was skating three of four times a week, playing two games most weekends, and drilling skills at home everyday. When I look back on my childhood, hockey is tied to many happy memories of good friends, learning new skills, long trips to games with my family, and my dad taking me to McDonalds after particularly good games. However, hockey is also tied with a general sense of anxiety about being “good enough”, “strong enough” and “tough enough”. I rarely was the best player on my teams in terms of overall skill. Instead, I earned my spot on the ice by being relentless in digging pucks out of the corners and winning what one coach called “one-on-one battles”. Playing this type of game necessitated putting on a mask of fearlessness every time I stepped on the ice because any hesitation probably meant that I would lose the puck to another player.

As I grew older, a disconnect started to grow between the role I assumed on the ice and the way I actually felt in the locker room. In fifth grade, another teammate started to call me “queer.” I did not really know what this meant at first (and in hindsight, I do not think he did either), but I knew that it was meant as insult. As this teasing started to get to me, my parents (my father in particular), attempted to give me advice to prevent it in the future. Such advice mostly boiled down to two things: don’t talk too much in the locker room and if you do, make sure to modulate the pitch of your voice so that it is not too high. Gradually, I began to fear getting picked on the locker room. I started to hide a part of myself whenever I arrived at the rink.

As a kid growing up attending Catholic school in a small town in central Pennsylvania, I did not have any true exposure to gay role models or a gay community. I do not remember any explicit discrimination or homophobia in my family or from my teachers, but homosexuality was not talked about in any real sense. I knew what it was, but it was never something I thought I would experience. Looking back, I can recall several vague feelings of being “different” from other boys but I believe my lack of real exposure to a gay community prevented me from truly understanding my sexuality.

The general anxiety in the locker room, coupled with my lack of self-understanding, started to become crippling in my first two years of high school hockey. My high school coaches were much louder than the patient coaches I had grown up playing under and were much harsher in their criticism of mistakes. In addition to off-ice anxiety, I became hesitant on the ice and my playing suffered. I wound up quitting after my sophomore year and not looking back.

It was around the time that I quit playing hockey that I started to truly realize I was gay. Coming out was an extremely long process. I kept my sexuality a secret from everyone but a few close friends until my senior year of college. I did pick up a hockey stick a few times to play intramural floor hockey with my fraternity brothers, but despite their support and praise, I still felt extremely nervous before our pick-up games. Even after officially coming out to all my friends and fraternity brothers in my senior year of college, I thought that hockey was a part of my former life and was not something that was compatible with my newly assumed identity as a gay man.

I had heard about the MGHA shortly after moving to Madison, but with a hectic work schedule that included lots of travelling, I never really researched it or thought about playing. My friends and colleagues Justin Sukup and Molly Costello mentioned that they played in the league one of our work trips and we started talking about my past hockey experience. Still, it took almost a year of nudging from Justin before I actually signed up to play.

I remember being asked before my first practice if I had played before. I answered truthfully, but it almost felt like I was talking about someone else. After all, I had not skated in almost nine years.

Although I did not realize it at the time, I first experienced all the great things about our league culture in my first practice. My nerves and anxiety seemed to disappear with every stride, and I quickly felt a joy of just being able to play hockey that I had not experienced since I was a child. As the season progressed, Sunday night hockey quickly became a highlight of my week. I made many great friends and quickly surprised myself with the self-understanding I gained with each game.

When I began writing this essay, it was difficult to express what gay hockey meant to me after my first year playing. I think it can be best summed up in one particular moment. In our final game of the season, as I prepared to take a face-off, the Lady Gaga song “Telephone” began to play. As cliché as it sounds, I could write a separate essay about my love for Lady Gaga and how her music helped me understand myself as a gay man when I was in college. I did my own quick version of the dance from the music video and then jumped right in to take the face-off just as I would have when I was younger. Gay hockey has helped me reconcile two parts of my personality, two parts that I previously thought were incompatible, and achieve a new level of self-acceptance. Like my coach had said many years ago, hockey for me has been about winning one-on-one battles. Gay hockey helped me win a one-on-
one battle with myself. I used to consider myself a gay man who used to play hockey.

Now I am a proud gay man who loves to play hockey.

Kelli Martino – 2015-2016 Essay

What Gay Hockey Means to Me

By Kelli Martino

What gay hockey means to me: family, friends, and being a part of team greater than the sum of its parts. Madison gay hockey is an integral part of Madison’s identity through my eyes.

As any Madison transplant knows, moving to a new location where you don’t know anyone can be a bit intimidating. With my traditional family a thousand miles away, my closest friends several hours away, and a new cohort of coworkers to meet, I felt very alone on day one. A week after moving, I was in contact with the league and putting down a deposit for the season.

After going to new player orientation and seeing so many people there, my excitement continued to grow. Some of the returning players helped with taping sticks and figuring out the gear situation, which was much appreciated. Finally it was time to hit the ice! I’ve played organized sports pretty much my entire life, but I quickly found MGHA is different. It’s about more than just the sport. This wonderful group of people works so hard to welcome and include everyone. Quickly after moving I had found a family of friends. I was also fortunate enough to snag an awesome mentor who helped to make sure that I not only was figuring out a new life on skates, but getting settled into Madison.

Throughout the season it was rewarding to see other players learn and develop their game. Playing the MGHA way was a solid reminder that it’s not about you. Setting up others to grow and succeed proves that sportsmanship goes a lot farther  Overall, I’m grateful for

Overall, I’m grateful for family that gay hockey has created. Not only is it the best sport on the planet, but also it’s with the best group of people you could ask for. The league was a great first impression of Madison as a whole and has helped make it my home.

Logan Kirwin – 2015-2016 Essay

What Gay Hockey Means to Me

By Logan Kirwin

The evening after the first new player clinic I went to IHOP and ate 2 entrees, then went home and watched six hours o hockey games on YouTube. This was my first hockey season, despite first pulling on skates at age 3. I’ve played competitive sports since age 5, and every team is a little different. Every season has its own challenges.

This year, while learning a new sport was a challenge; my biggest struggle was mostly off-ice, confronting my gender identity. The inclusive atmosphere cultivated from the word go in the MGHA and the people I became friends with through the season made coming out to my teammates and later the rest of my friends and family a far simpler experience than it could have otherwise been.

Moving to the Midwest after growing up in Massachusetts was a bit of a culture shift, even with the understanding that Madison is quite liberal in comparison to the rest of the state. Gender role expectations played a little heavier into everyday interactions, even within the queer community. I found myself dreading otherwise enticing work opportunities because I’d have to wear feminine business clothing, rather than my day-to-day jeans and a hoodie. I’d grown accustomed to the groaning of friends in college about formal clothing, so it came as a surprise when many of my coworkers sounded like they actually enjoyed putting on dresses and makeup. It became clear to me pretty quickly that something else was going on for me, that it wasn’t just being gay and not liking to dress up that was bothering me.

Playing sports growing up meant that I constantly defined myself as an athlete. Being an athlete meant I got to express myself on the court or field, whatever the designated playing surface was that day. It also meant that I got to wear sweats as my peers were experimenting with miniskirts and tight shirts because I was always coming from or going to sports practice. Upon leaving college and moving to

Madison, I lost that label for a while. I tried a few different sports and activities; soccer, karate, yoga, Crossfit, marathon training, but nothing stuck. I started playing softball with Badgerland last summer, which got me connected with a second softball league and soon I was playing softball 3 times a week and started being able to call myself an athlete again. Getting into the MGHA was another step back in the direction of feeling comfortable and confident in my skin again. Starting to play in the MGHA was like coming home, where home is a semi-resurfaced sheet of ice and a rowdy crew in the locker room.

My identity as an athlete had a huge impact on my internal dialogue around gender. Much of the sports I had played prior to the MGHA were highly gendered, and even coed sports had rigid rules about how many girls had to be on the field at any given time. I was terrified that by coming out, I would lose everything I had worked hard to gain back over the last year. The relaxed coed play of the MGHA gave me the space to contemplate what transitioning while maintaining my identity as an athlete would look like.

A lot of the MGHA essays talk about finding a community, and they all use the phrase LGBT. I’ve been a part of several gay communities, but never one as gender identity inclusive as the MGHA. From shining a light on “hey some of your teammates might be trans” at the new player orientation, to making sure everyone on the team knew what pronouns their teammates preferred, I found reason to hope that being true to my gender identity wasn’t going to turn me away from the new found friendships and inklings of community.

Even with an extended internal dialogue and the experience of seeing happy trans and nonbinary hockey players, it still took me 4 months into the season to say the words “I’m trans” out loud to another person. From there, it was like a Band-Aid was ripped off, and each positive affirming reaction made me want to tell another person, such that 4 months after that first admission I’ve come out at work, to my 400+ Facebook friends and started hormones. I’m fairly certain I never would have made it here without the MGHA.

There’s one final anecdote that set me on the path of writing this as my MGHA story. The weekend I decided to come out to my teammates, I had gone to the twin cities to see Minnesota play Wisconsin and while sitting in my hotel room Sunday morning, I hastily typed out a coming out email to the team. I spent an hour deciding what to title it, another 30 minutes deciding whether I was ready to send it, and at least a shower-length regretting sending it before reading any of the responses. At my MGHA game that night, after a day of being buoyed by positive responses, I scored my first goal of the season.

Shelly Kennedy – 2015-2016 Essay

Gay Hockey is Like the Unconditional Love I Get from My Dogs

By Shelly Kennedy

Ok, first of all I am not a comfortable writer or orator for that matter, I prefer working with numbers, formulas and tables rather than letters and words. So the idea of an essay on anything is not particularly an attractive task to perform. And while I have a hard time articulating my thoughts about things that are not rooted in analytics, I have taken the challenge of communicating what Gay Hockey means to me, so bear with me here… I love animals, always have. There has been at least one dog living with me most of my life.

They have been my comfort, humor, constant, friends – never judging, always caring, providing unconditional love and companionship. Sam, Sugar, Koty, Miko, Ailey, Benny, Murphy…. all they ever want(ed) to do is support me, have fun and welcome friends. To me, MGHA is much the same.

When I walk into Hartmeyer on Sundays I witness so many hugs, smiles and “hellos” akin to a tail-wagging dog welcoming & greeting their person.

When I suit up in the locker room, I hear conversations about both struggles and triumphs and am encouraged by the support and empathy I witness, not unlike the unwavering effort of one’s dog to comfort their owner in difficult times or wiggle with excitement in good times.

When I was paired with a new player as a mentor and spent time getting to know them I developed a respect and friendship I know will last, just like what I have (had) with all my dogs.

When we play hockey there is a ‘have fun’ atmosphere, not unlike what a dog encourages when they get the chance.

Gay Hockey in the MGHA is a welcoming, supportive, unconditionally loving community that I am happy and proud to be a part of. It’s like…the unconditional love one gets from their dog. ☺

Andrew “Alpha” Brausen – 2015-2016 Essay

What Gay Hockey Means to Me

By Andrew “Alpha” Brausen

“Yeah, go Alpha!” is a phrase heard repeatedly on any given Sunday night at Hartmeyer. Why, you may ask? Well, friend, let me tell you a little story.

On a cold, snowy day, December 28th, 1984 a baby was born. The baby, born early, struggled their first few months of life, but the resilience of their soul won out. The day they were born this child was slapped with an “F” for female on their birth certificate, but he was far more special. This child would face much adversity and hardship for the next twenty-plus years of life. He would lose his family, his jobs, and almost life itself before discovering his inner Alpha wolf. This young man took all the courage he had to join a hockey league that promised to be safe, fun and have an encouraging environment. He found this and so much more.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with why I love gay hockey. The answer is that the young man is me. My name is Andrew Brausen, but you can call me Alpha. Through my time with the MGHA, I have learned many hockey skills; not that I don’t have much further to go. I continue to grow more every year. This is why I joined after all, but I got a whole lot more than I bargained for and it’s one of the reasons why I keep coming back.

One of the things I hadn’t expected was finding a group of not only gays and lesbians or even a group of LGBTQ+ people, but a community of people from all walks of life. Having these people around has opened my eyes to many new things as well as affirming to me that I’m not alone in my thinking. Do you think you could get better than that? It can and it does.

Through this group I found my pack, or to most of you; my family. I also found my voice. With these two things I have found reasons to live and to love myself. I found strength to try new things, not only on the ice, but off it as well. I know that no matter what I do I have got my pack behind me.

I can move mountains, tame rivers, and even find a better me than I did yesterday. I love gay hockey because gay hockey unconditionally loves me for who I am and everything I bring.

I hope to bring even more change for the future so all people feel they are heard. A future that judges you not on the what, but the who. A future that encourages everyone to be the best they can be so all people don’t need a league to feel accepted; they just know they are accepted.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and see what gay hockey means to me. I hope this inspires you to not only join if you are interested, but to follow your dreams, no matter where they take you.

Sarah Bottjen – 2015-2016 Essay

What Gay Hockey Means to Me

By Sarah Bottjen

I can remember the first time I ever took a step on ice. Big fuzzy boots, bundled up ‘til I could hardly see, and all thanks to my ever-loving parents who knew that I would probably freeze to death or crack my skull open without the gear. I was always interested in athletics, and somehow was considered a bit of a cool kid in high school after joining the softball team and then the alpine ski team – strange thinking about it now as I never really knew having a perm until 8th grade was “cool”. Maybe it was my really neat headgear or something. Somehow I made it, but underneath it all there was always a spirit of antagonism on the teams I participated in – we picked on the kids who weren’t as good, who looked weird or didn’t fit whatever the macho/fem ideal that bizarrely exists even when you’re a fricking kid. I hated that. I was always a bit too afraid to really stick up for those kids, though I did try to give them pointers as they went down the hill or as we sat by each other on the chairlift. It was probably my way of feeling better about myself.

In seventh grade playing volleyball we had a coach who was a lesbian. Some of the girls hated her because she was a “butch bitch”, but really they were lazy and didn’t want to run laps or cared about getting better at the sport. They made up some story about the locker room and how they didn’t feel comfortable, and you know the rest. I don’t remember if our coach was fired, or if she just stopped coaching, but the story was of course a fabrication. This was the culture of the small town where I’m from. I didn’t understand my sexuality at the time(and had I surely would have denied it – in reflection I did have a crush on a girl in middle school once and just told myself it was because she looked like a boy or whatever and I liked her Jesus temporary tattoo), and was pretty ambivalent when it came to trying to attract a mate, but I couldn’t believe someone would want to cause harm to another person like that. Some days I feel like the world has made crazy strides forward, and then I see another news article spewing hate speech or ridiculous bathroom laws that showcase nothing but ignorance.

Fast forward to the future, I understand who I am & what I’m looking for a hellova lot better than before, but it probably took until about the year before I joined the MGHA. And I still can be an insecure weirdo. What I love about this league is our pursuit of learning and teaching – I learn from everyone I meet in this league, not just skills on the ice, but about their life stories and the texture that makes them who they are. No one has been dismissive of me, or of others. No one has pre-defined expectations for who you are, what you know, aside from the fact that you should accept others for who they are as well. In my first year, I met and made amazing friends who taught me the sport. In my second year, I realized that in this league, no one is trying to erase any identity, and instead lift you up to be the best player you can be. I was a little afraid that as a bisexual woman, I might be seen differently while in a relationship with a man – even in college I lost friendships because of this. I don’t think it’s even been something anyone has noticed. I’ve realized this year that members of this league support one another in all ways of life, whether it be friends suffering from hard times financially, with family, depression or other.

People don’t seem to shy away from truly being good friends & allies. 🙂 I feel like groups like the MGHA give a sense of belonging, but also a community to fight for. We truly are a family, and one that supports one another through learning, coaching, and the occasional beer on the bleachers. This kind of accepting community doesn’t exist as often as it should in sports, but is something that we are to the core. It is a pivotal part of my experience here in Madison. This is exactly the type of community I would hope my future family and kids can be around, to learn that sports aren’t solely about competition, but also building up others to ensure betterment of the community as a whole.

Kelly Bass – 2015-2016 Essay

What Gay Hockey Means to Me

By Kelly Bass

I’ve spent many of my 31 years just existing. There have definitely been times when I’ve felt like I was actively living, but until fairly recently, those moments weren’t the norm. Then, in August of 2015, I joined the MGHA and started living on a full time basis.

The beginning of 2015 was a rough time for me. I was unemployed, living in the house I grew up in, and feeling almost completely aimless. The profession I’d thought I’d spend the rest of my life doing had fizzled spectacularly. I was marathoning 90’s TV shows on Netflix and spending hours scrolling through online job postings. After weeks of increasingly lethal cabin fever, I started taking a lot of really long walks. Being active helped, and I began to think of ways I might supplement those walks.

I’d heard of Madison’s gay hockey league; it’s nearly impossible to identify as gay in Madison and not know about it in some capacity. It wasn’t until I sent a mildly inquisitive Facebook message to a friend who played with the league that I actually considered playing a possibility. The response I received was almost immediate and ridiculously encouraging: “Yes. It’s great. Go sign up. Do it now.” I responded with a noncommittal “I’ll have a look at the site.” Five minutes later, my phone buzzed. “Did you sign up yet?” So I did. I took a survey, got accepted, was assigned a mentor, and bought a carload (no joke – I drive a Civic) of equipment. Presto: instant hockey player. Right.

There aren’t really words to explain the level of anxiety I felt in the weeks leading up to orientation and the skills clinics. I’d skated before, but had never done so while wielding a hockey stick and covered head to toe in protective gear. I’m also a card-carrying introvert, and meeting new people has always been stressful.

On the day of the first clinic, I knew exactly one person who’d be in attendance: my league-assigned mentor (who, by the way, is awesome). What I realized very quickly, though, was that a small part of me already knew a small part of almost everyone else there. While I would never in a million years presume to say I know all of their stories, I began to recognize myelf in a lot of the faces in attendance. For the first time in my life (other than when I was with my family), I felt like I belonged somewhere. I didn’t have to hide or apologize for who I was, I wasn’t self-conscious about my abilities, and I was able to contribute in a meaningful way.

As the season progressed, I got my feet under me both literally and figuratively. My skating improved. I learned about positioning, puck handling, and, finally (with much good-natured, shouted warnings from nearly everyone on the ice), how to not be offsides all the time. Buffeted by the unconditional support and encouragement from my amazing teammates, my self-confidence improved markedly. People outside of the league noticed changes in the way I carried myself. My siblings, who initially thought my announced intention to join the league was facetious, couldn’t stop talking about how fun it was to watch the games. My personal thought on this is that observing so many happy people play hockey together can’t be anything but fun.

My experience with the league has given me so many things that are both tangible and not. It changed me physically, as exercise tends to. It’s made me feel more comfortable in my own skin. It’s made me feel more comfortable inside my own head. When I leave the rink as a sweaty, exhausted mess on Sunday nights, it still feels like I’ve just recharged. I’ve made excellent friends with truly remarkable people. I fell in love with an amazing woman. There aren’t many aspects of my life that haven’t changed as a direct result of my MGHA involvement.

Joining the league was one of the most impulsive, out-of-my-comfort-zone decisions I’ve ever made, but I can’t emphasize enough how happy I am that I made it. Living is pretty great.