Georgetown Day School (GDS) has never been a particularly athletically-focused school, but some sports are still more prominent than others. Ice hockey players at GDS have long been neglected, and with reason. Fewer than 10 students who play hockey out of more than 500 in the student body is hardly enough to field a team. This situation, however, is hardly unique to GDS. Hockey is not a very well-represented sport in the DC-Metropolitan area; yet, in 2003, a group of students from Woodrow Wilson High School set out to change that underrepresentation by giving local kids a chance to play the game they love.
Although originally based out of Wilson High School, the DC Stars Hockey team allows any high schooler in the area to play and compete against other local high school teams. Note an emphasis placed on the word “any.” Tryouts are not required, so there is a wide range of skill among players on the Stars at any given time. GDS Sophomore Alex Carmen, a two-year defenseman for the DC Stars, described the makeup of the team, saying, “the skill range is huge.” He noted that “there are some people who play travel hockey and just want to play on the team for fun, and there are some people [for whom] this is their main outlet for hockey.”
This open team policy also supports the notion of an open and non-judgmental clubhouse, and according to team members, that is exactly what the environment is like. GDS Sophomore Ben Ishimaru, also a two-year defenseman on the team, said that inside the clubhouse there is “no real hierarchy between grades;” yet, he in part attributed this situation to the relative youth of the team. The majority of players are either freshmen or sophomores, so there is no real opening for the team’s upperclassmen to establish superiority.
But GDS Freshman Nick Howe, a first-year forward on the Stars and the team’s second leading scorer, claimed that the few juniors and seniors on the team in fact serve a very different role. Howe, also the team’s leader in assists, said that “the upperclassmen have helped me so much” and that they really push the organization to excel. Howe described the upperclassmen as playing a more supportive role on the squad. They understand what it means to have a young team, and as such have become mentors more than leaders.
Carmen elaborated on the topic of grade divisions, admitting that “the older kids get the most leniency when it comes to cleaning up.” However, he sees this practice as a good thing, describing it as “something that you’re looking forward to. It’s like ‘Oh, I can’t wait to get older, to become more respected and to not have to carry the pucks.’” There is a grade difference on the team, but it’s not one that promotes a negative, hazing culture. It is instead one that is created out of and sustained by respect, and, therefore, one that fosters a healthy clubhouse culture for everyone.
One of the main incentives to play for the Stars as opposed to a travel team is the schedule. Monday practices and Friday games allow the players to fulfill their hockey fix while simultaneously being able to manage the heavy workload given by GDS and other DC-area schools. Ishimaru described the difference, explaining that “on other teams you practice three times a week; you have big tournaments on the weekend,” while he thinks that the DC Stars team is less serious. Carmen related similar sentiments, saying that travel hockey is “extremely time-consuming,” even more so than most other travel sports. He said that “GDS is very academically rigorous and it [would be] hard to keep up.” The Stars, while not nearly as serious or competitive as a travel team might be, provide a great alternative for players unwilling or unable to fully commit all of their free time to hockey.
Despite all of the pros, the Stars team still isn’t a perfect solution for GDS hockey players. Carmen, Ishimaru, and Howe all said without much hesitation that they would definitely play on an official Georgetown Day hockey team if there was one, despite their lament that it would be difficult to leave the Stars because of how many friends they’ve made through the team. So, although it’s not the ideal scenario for many DC-area hockey players, the DC Stars still does an admirable job of filling in for the lack of in-school hockey programs.
As for team performance, the times look grim. Zero wins and sixteen losses during the regular season certainly isn’t how the players imagined the season would go. Carmen thinks that this winter has been an “uncharacteristic” performance that will likely lead to a demotion to the league’s second division (D2). Howe put a different spin on the news, however, saying that “it’s not really negative. [Having such a young team,] we weren’t used to high school hockey and the level of competition.” He went on to state his belief that it will only be a year or two before the Stars “get back on their feet” and are able to move back up to the first division, gliding on the shoulders of their young players.
Despite the less than ideal results of their season, however, the Stars were allowed into the D2 playoffs and won games against James Hubert Blake High School and Richard Montgomery High School on their way to claiming the D2 championship in a 5-0 win over Quince Orchard High School. Howe tallied four assists in the title game and ended the playoffs as one of the team leaders with eight total points. So, if a Friday night opens up next winter, show some school spirit and go watch the Stars play. Because for now and the foreseeable future, they’re all that GDS has.
By: Eli Thayer