Wednesday, April 02, 2008
By Phil Stacey
Online home of the Bruins Ice Girls here.
If it's game night at the TD Banknorth Garden, chances are Alexa Nicholls is there.
She's in attendance for almost every Boston Bruins home contest, enjoys being part of the action and loves meeting new people at the games.
This 19-year-old from Topsfield isn't just a huge fan, however. She's a part of the actual game presentation.
"I feel like I'm living the dream right now," said Nicholls, one of 16 women employed by the Boston Bruins Ice Girls team. "It's a job, but it's also my stress relief. I feel like getting to work with some of my best friends and being part of this team is a real privilege."
Andrea Skomurski knows exactly what Nicholls means. She is also a member of the Ice Girls, and the 20-year-old from Danvers finds it difficult to put into words just how much she enjoys it.
"Knowing that you're adding to the excitement of the game and being a part of it is phenomenal. There's no way to explain it," said Skomurski, a junior at UMass Lowell studying exercise physiology. "Our job is to help bring that excitement level the fans have that much higher."
Now in their fourth season, the Boston Bruins Ice Girls are a collection of women ranging in age from 18 to 28 who are part of the team's in-game entertainment. Paired up in twos, they do things such as shoot T-shirts into the stands; escort fans who win instant upgrade tickets to their new seats; skate during stoppages in play; and appear on the Jumbrotron imploring fans to make noise.
The Ice Girls are popular with fans of all ages, posing for pictures (often with Blades, the team's mascot) and signing autographs all over the arena.
A big part of their job is also promoting the Boston Bruins brand name away from the arena. That means being involved in a myriad of community activities, everything from promoting the team at various pubs and bars in the Boston area and being part of the Bruins' annual Wives' Charity Carnival to riding in a float in the South Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade.
"We're helping to get the Bruins' name out there to as many people as we can," said Nicholls, a sophomore majoring in pre-med at Boston University. "And being out there in the community reaching out to others is something that I love to do."
'Exactly what I hoped for'
Nicholls, whose "real" job has her working with patients on the surgical floor at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston as a patient care technician three days a week — she'd like to some day apply to medical school or Physician's Assistant School, and needs 2,000 hours with direct patient contact before then — is in her second season as a Bruins Ice Girl.
Her extracurricular resume was flowing while she attended Masconomet Regional High School. Nicholls was involved in everything from Peer Leadership and the Spanish Club to being head of the Prom Committee and captain of the girls' tennis team. She was also a competitive cheerleader and danced for 16 years.
When she heard that the Bruins were holding Ice Girls tryouts two years ago, she decided she had nothing to lose. Nicholls saw what they were looking for — a well-rounded background, the ability to interact with people, having a hockey background and being a positive role model for the team — and figured she had a good shot.
"I didn't know why I wouldn't make it," said Nicholls. "Still, it was nervous going to those first tryouts with 250 girls, then getting called back to a second tryout with 75 girls, and waiting for that final call to come. I was so excited when it did."
If you think Nicholls has only a passing interest in hockey, think again; playing and watching the game has been a part of the fabric of her family for as long as she can remember. Her brother, Jay, plays for the Valley Junior Warriors program while her boyfriend, Greg Costa, skates for Northeastern University. During her high school years, Alexa worked at Pure Hockey in Danvers, one of New England's biggest hockey equipment stores.
John, her father, still plays the sport against much younger men and her mother, Gail, might be the biggest Bruins' fan in the house. Even the family dog is named Stanley — after the most famous Cup in all of professional sports.
Nicholls, who said other Ice Girls have become some of her closest friends, said the job is "exactly what I hoped for.
"It reminds me of what I did in high school, being involved in so many different ways," she said. "I love being at the games and being involved."
A great mix
Skomurski, a Bishop Fenwick graduate, can also remember watching Bruins games at a young age. So young, in fact, that she couldn't always follow the action.
"I couldn't always follow the puck on TV," she said with a laugh.
A skater throughout high school, she tried out for the Ice Girls on a whim last summer. A friend she had grown up skating with was going to the tryouts and invited Skomurski to join her. Quickly, they put together a required dance routine, and the next thing Skomurski knew she was being called back for a second tryout and interviews.
"This is a great mix for me: getting involved in a team sport and also having the skating aspect of it," said Skomurski, who will eventually go on to study physical therapy. "And what better team to cheer for?"
An RA (resident assistant) at UMass Lowell, Skomurski said a lot of residents in her dorm will come up to her and say they saw her on the Garden Jumbotron. The Bruins cap that she frequently wears around campus gets a lot of compliments, too.
"I like getting people to go to the games," said Skomurski, who lists Ray Bourque as her all-time favorite Bruin (she went to school with his children growing up at St. Mary's in Danvers). "It's also great getting to know the other girls on the team. We have a lot of laughs."
Because she has class on Thursday nights, Skomurski is unable to make all of the team's home games. But she's around as much as she can be during weekend games and other weeknights, and hopes to get even more involved with the team during their scheduled promotions this summer and beyond.
"In this job, every day brings something new," said Skomurski. "We're just like the fans; win or lose, we're there to support the team. Being young and in college, I definitely want to do this for as long as I can."
Online home of the Bruins Ice Girls here.