Tenacious, Yes, but Forget the Lipstick

By Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 6, 2008

At her daughter's school in Silver Spring, three people asked Colleen Thompson about her lipstick one day -- not that she was wearing any.

But she laughed, knowing that as the presidential election has veered into the final stretch, her world as a hockey mom is getting a lot of attention: a subculture of mothers who pass large parts of their lives watching their kids fly across frozen arenas flinging rubber pucks.

In the laugh line of her speech at the Republican convention, GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin described the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom.

"Lipstick," she deadpanned.

In other elections, the political spotlight has fallen on NASCAR dads and soccer moms. This time, the governor of Alaska has magnetized a lesser-known subspecies of the American electorate. She introduced herself as an average hockey mom and gave them their due in her debate Thursday night with Democratic Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.).

So it is that Thompson, 43, a mother of three hockey players who never wears makeup, has been fielding jokes about her makeup. "This moment is kind of fun," Thompson said, pointing out that public notice of hockey parents tends to lean toward brawling dads.

Some say hockey moms (and dads) are not very different from other passionate sports parents. But others say that hockey in the Washington region stands out for its high cost, the long-distance travel required in highly competitive leagues and the intensity of the family lifestyle that often can go with it.

"The hockey mom seems to be the soccer mom on steroids," offered Matthew Grose, general manager of the SkateQuest rink in Reston, where an hour on the ice costs $325 and teams are run in large part on volunteer hours that parents put in.

As in other sports, hockey has its share of parents who are too loud, argue with referees, lobby coaches for extra playing time and proclaim their children's futures in professional leagues. Still, Bob Weiss, executive director of the Montgomery Youth Hockey Association, said that "95 percent of the parents at a game are respectful of the game and the opponent and the referees."

Some mothers have embraced the sport so fully that they have taken classes offered by the Washington Capitals to learn the fine points of the game. Some buy season tickets. In Reston, a group of moms has hit the ice themselves, forming their own team.

"Everything revolves around the hockey schedule," said Ingrid Constantine, 45, a Reston mother of three, including two hockey players. "I can't plan my piano lessons or my religious education classes until I know my hockey schedule."

Dinners and holidays get sacrificed as the season picks up. Julie Butler, 44, a Rockville mother of three, recalled the "many Thanksgivings when we had to eat at 2 so we could leave by 4" because there was a tournament the next morning in a distant city.

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