Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Berklee Students Play More Than Just Music

BOSTON--(Sept.23,2008) Jimmy Gately, captain, coach, and center for the Berklee Ice Cats, draws up the next drill during their practice at the Simoni Ice Rink in Cambridge.
By Margaret DeJesus (MargaretDeJesus88@gmail.com)
BOSTON--(Sept. 24, 2008) Drumsticks, guitar picks and hockey sticks? It may sound like an odd combination but not to the members of the Ice Cats, Berklee College of Music’s hockey team.
Yes, Berklee has a hockey team and its players find time to balance their passion for music with their love of the game.“I’ve played it (hockey) my whole entire life. Why would I stop playing now?” said Charles (Charlie) Silva, a 22-year-old music education major at Berklee.
The prestigious music school located in the heart of Boston along Massachusetts and Boylston Avenue isn’t known for its sports and doesn’t even have an athletic department but that didn’t stop John Kingsley from posting flyers around campus and online that expressed interest in starting a hockey team in 2006. A bunch of students, including Silva, showed up for the first meeting and “the rest is history,” according to Kingsley who graduated from Berklee with a guitar performance degree.
“We start getting questions as early as just after acceptances go out about how to try out, how to get involved, and does it really exist,” said Director of Student Activities Emily Page in an email.
Come Together
The team initially had their share of hurdles to overcome from figuring out the school’s colors to paying for ice time and jerseys.
“The things that are pushed into college sports like the mascot, the school colors, the logo, no one knew that. Now we had a hockey team and we had to find out all that stuff,” said team captain Jimmy Gately in an interview with fellow teammates last Friday in a Berklee study lounge.
They learned Berklee had a mascot named Mingus the Cat and red and grey school colors, which they adapted to maroon and silver on their jerseys.The hockey hungry musicians had to front hundreds of dollars of their own cash the first season for ice time at rinks for practice, for referee fees, and for jerseys and equipment. But as time went on, Berklee found ways to help support them.
“The more and more we showed the school what we could do, the more they helped out,” said Kingsley, the brainchild of the club, in a phone interview. “For a school that had basically no athletics, they responded really well.”
Today, the Berklee bookstore sells jerseys, baseball hats and other hockey merchandise with part of the proceeds going to the hockey team according to the director of student activities.
Battle of the Art Schools
The Ice Cats played their first season in the NESHL, New England Senior Hockey League where they posted an 8-15-1 record. Their opponents were usually older men, sometimes former athletes, of varying skill levels and no checking was allowed. John “Pie” McKenzie, a two time Stanley Cup winner with the Boston Bruins in the 1970s, volunteered to coach the team for their first season after learning about them from a Boston Globe article.
According to defenseman Brian Mullen, one of the highlights of that year was “getting to practice in TD Banknorth Garden and suiting up in the away team’s locker rooms the day after my 21st birthday.”
The Garden is home to the Boston Bruins NHL hockey team.The team now plays in the more aggressive and competitive ACHA, American Collegiate Hockey Association where they were 9-3 last season. They played against club teams from schools like Tufts University, Middlesex Community College, Suffolk University and Bentley College.
The annual Boylston Cup game, initially organized by Kingsley and Gately in 2006, against Emerson College is when the students of Berklee come to cheer on their team as it’s the most advertised game of their season. Money is also raised for the Ice Cats through ticket sales at the Boylston game.
“An idea we've been tossing around is to one day make it like a mini Beanpot with a couple of other schools involved,” said Gately. “For now it’s just a Boylston street battle of the two art schools.”
Berklee won their self made trophy two years in a row after defeating Emerson.
“It’s fun to play against all the teams but the rivalry against Berklee is definitely more energetic than any other,” said Alan Gwizdowski, captain of the Emerson Lions, in a phone interview.
“We started our club teams at around the same time, played in the same leagues and we both funded it ourselves, so we were kind of in the same boat as them.”The Boylston Cup is also fun, according to Gwizdowski because it pits the “filmmakers against the music guys.”
Musicians by Day, Hockey Players by Night
After a day’s work of recording, practicing scales or hammering out drum solos, the students get together on Tuesday nights at the Simoni Ice Rink in Cambridge to take a step back from music.
“To be at a music college and to have an outlet where I don’t have to talk about music all the time is a nice release,” said Gately.“It’s always going to be about the music. This is ultimately just a fun thing on the side for Tuesday and Saturday nights,” said 22-year-old Mullen, a professional music major in drums, adding that some of the guys can’t always show because they have gigs scheduled.
During their 90 minute practices the players may work on basic passing drills, conditioning and skating exercises as well as offensive strategies. When asked how they stay in shape, Mullen, Gately and Silva burst out laughing.
“We tried doing off-ice practices but people weren’t really into it. There are some kids who do, but in the month before the season starts we run a lot of conditioning drills at practice,” said Gately.
The players who for the most part rely on their hands for their musical craft are careful but not overly concerned about getting injured.“It’s a risk we take, not because we are really competitive hockey players or anything, but because we love playing hockey and we want to have fun playing it,” said Zachary (Zac) Zinger, the team’s 19-year-old goalie.
Gately, who will also act as coach for the team again this season, warns students before trying out that it may not be the best idea to get involved if they haven’t played in a few years or aren’t comfortable on skates. Most of the now 18 player squad, which at one time had a couple of female players as well, has had some experience in high school.
Zinger, who averaged only two goals against per game, and top scoring forward Breton McNamara won the state championship together when they played for the Quaker Valley Quakers in high school in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Ice Cats are also composed of players with different musical backgrounds, which they say is another added benefit of being on the team.
“You actually come to respect more different types of music. Since I respect Zac, I’m more likely to open myself up more to his style of music (jazz composition),” said drummer and left winger Charlie Silva.
“We may never have met had it not been for the team,” said Zinger, who said he gets a taste of heavy metal and Dave Matthews Band among other things when he hangs out with fellow players.
There’s not much music to be heard out of the Ice Cats locker room before games, although Zinger suggested “playing the Oscar Meyer Weiner song from the commercial might be funny to psych out the other team one day.”
There is always the possibility of an air guitar or air drum solo however, according to Silva.
John Kingsley said he had no idea what would happen when he posted up those flyers and never would have dreamed that the team would get so much recognition so fast, let alone a mini spot on a NESN show and a Boston Globe article during the winter of their 2006-2007 season.
“I know we won’t be the fifth Beanpot team or anything but to give Berklee even just a little outlet like this for its students to share in is great, and I feel privileged to have been part of that,” said Kingsley, who now lives in Nashville and just got off the road playing guitar with ZZ Top.The Ice Cats kick off their third season this October against Middlesex Community College.

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