Hockey has always been a part of my life ever sense I was really young. When I was 11 years old my uncle Bobby would take me to the New Jersey Devils games so frequently that the Meadowlands Sports Complex became a place that I started to consider a second home. In 2003, I witnessed the Devils defeat The Mighty Ducks and win the Stanley Cup. It was also the day I got to meet one of my idols Martin Broduer and told him that he is the reason I am learning how to be a goalie.
In 2005, my family sent me to Westchester Skating Academy. It was there I played with my first team and learned how to skate better. With my persistence, I learned how to become a goalie even at a camp based around being a player. After graduation from WSA in 2006, I attended a summer program with Army Hockey Camp. Which was hell on ice, intense training for 6 weeks. Eventually, money got tight, and I could no longer afford new equipment, so hockey had to be put on hold.
2012 happened to be one of the toughest and most challenging years of my life so far. After graduating in 2011 from Red Hook High School, located in Red Hook, NY. I moved out of my aunt’s and moved out on my own and started attending SUNY Ulster Community College. I was the only kid in my first year that was taking 18 credits, havingclass Monday through Friday 7 am to 7 pm, while trying to keep a job, pay my bills, and do my homework. I started to break down, and by the end of my first semester of college, I was at my breaking point, which ended with me in a hospital for 3 months, causing me to withdraw from college. During my hospital stay, my mother had gotten arrested, which I discovered by her photo being front page of the newspaper. Following that, 3 weeks later, my stepfather of 16 years had passed away. Despite all the obstacles that were thrown at me, I continued to try to get a grasp on my life while maintaining happiness.
When 2013 came around, I basically lived with my best friend Kyle. I was a cart pusher for Wal-Mart(WORST JOB EVER). Kyle told me that he was planning on moving to Florida in May of 2013. During the same time, our close friend George and his boyfriend Michael were moving to Madison, WI., which left me wondering what I was going to do with my life. The only opinion I felt feasible was to live out of my car, until I found a place to live. Well, as my best friends, they weren’t going to allow that. Kyle ended up deciding to move with George and Michael, to Madison, and told me I had no choice that I was moving with them and that I had two weeks to pack my things. After 23 hours, with a U-haul and my car attached to the back of it, here I am. I walk into the door to our new apartment with tears of joy.
Being I was new to the area and single, I downloaded the app Grindr, trying to get an understanding about the gay community out here. Patrick Farabaugh contacted me asking if I was interested in playing for the Madison Gay Hockey Association. I was very skeptical when he asked me to meet him for coffee at first. For one, I’m talking to someone on Grindr about signing up for a sports league? When I finally met up with Patrick, my first response was “darn it sounds like a lot of fun, but sadly I have absolutely no money.” After reassuring me that there was a scholarship that would cover the cost of my equipment and physically taking me to get my equipment, I started thinking that this would actually work, and the excitement of me actually playing hockey again became real.
I remember the first day I entered our first practice at Hartmeyer Ice Arena walking in to the locker room not knowing anyone and having to remember how to put my goalie pads on by myself. I remember looking around the locker room as everyone was getting his or her gear on perfectly well, saying to myself “Pull yourself together Tom.” I remember having issues putting on my leg pads by myself, and the person next to me (Sebastian Renfield) saw that I was struggling and offered to help me put on my pads. When I finally made it out on the ice and met everyone I felt instantly welcomed into the group with open arms.
When people ask me to describe what MGHA is the best and only description I have is we are a family that gets together every Sunday to play hockey and encourage each other to strive to do better. There is no judgment. If you fall, you fall; no one will judge you because at one point in the league they were just like you. Then I get the questions like “ Why Gay hockey? What makes it Gay?” Well, I can tell you, we don’t prance around in tights and sing Kumbaya,though if you want to you are more then welcome to… just not during a game.Sorry. Why gay hockey? The word Gay in the MGHA is to show community and acceptance. “Does that mean you only have to be Gay to play on the league?” No, there are plenty of straight allies, along with many different sexual orientations and the league welcomes all genders. We are a group of people that accept equality, and we leave discrimination and ridicule outside the safety zone. What makes it gay? -A bunch of gay jokes, jokes about goalie’s butts in the air all the time, listening to Lady Gaga and Madonna playing over the loud speakers, to me running around doing my Xena Warrior Princess battle cry on the ice. But seriously, we aren’t playing a different sport, we are playing hockey by the same rules. We just make it equal for everyone to have a fun time, not lose any teeth, and certainly, so everyone can have a great time and have fun.
MGHA is stability and it is also a community family that brings everyone together. The only thing is, you get what you put into it, if you just show up for the games and leave, and show no interest in getting to know the other players you wont actually get the full experience. Honestly you will be missing out. Which would be really sad. If you’re questioning if the MGHA is for you, the real question, what are you afraid of? We are here to welcome you with open arms.
This season was my second season with the Madison Gay Hockey Association, it has given me the ability to open up and create an escape from the four jobs I have. I love playing hockey and I love my new family more and more every day.
My name is Thomas Dougherty, I’m a goalie for Blue Bayou, Don’t Ask Don’t Teal. For my family the Madison Gay Hockey Association. My new home in Hartmeyer Ice Arena. I’m a Warrior Prince. I was also a winner of The MGHA All The Way for 2014-2015. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to sign up and join my family!
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