Tuesday, January 27, 2009
By Ashley Lopes, Staff Writer
GateHouse News Service
Jan 25, 2009
Mobs of skaters young and old clumsily made their way around the slick Aleixo Skating Rink on Sunday, stopping every so often to get an autograph or pose for pictures with the Boston Bruins Ice Girls.
Even Bruins’ team mascot Blades the Bear, who guided a few unsteady guests around the rink, soaked up quite a bit of the limelight.
“They are all so cute,” said Jillian Nelson, 21, a Boston Bruins Ice Girl who recalled her early skating days when she relied on a milk crate for balance on the ice.
Sponsored by FMC Ice Sports and the Boston Bruins Ice Girls, the fan-centric event was an opportunity for Nelson, fellow Ice Girl and Berkley teen Ashley Roque, and Blades the Bear to meet and skate with local youngsters. Guests also had the opportunity to win memorabilia autographed by Bruins players.
“It’s all about the fans,” Nelson said. “It’s about getting people involved with the Bruins organization and getting more support for our team, who are doing so phenomenal this year.”
Aleixo Skate Arena was the third stop on the Ice Girls’ mini tour. Promotions staff member Rob Gugliotta said the Ice Girls will visit nearly a dozen skate rinks across Massachusetts over the next couple of months in an effort to reach out to Bruins fans and potential fans.
Started last year as a way to keep the Boston-based hockey team in the public eye, the event was a success it’s first year out and Gugliotta has seen a surge in attendance since.
“The kids love it,” said Gugliotta, noting the youngsters who flock toward Bruins biggest celebrity — Blades the Bear — in hopes of walking away with a picture. “It makes people feel like their team is more accessible to them when the Boston Bruins Ice Girls come to these smaller rinks.”
Gugliotta pointed out that the presence of Ice Girls such as Roque and Nelson not only benefits the Bruins family, but has had a positive effect on small skating arenas like Aleixo, as sports fans and non-sports fans alike spill through the doors to meet their local skating stars.
This included a group of young competitive figure skaters, who came to share in the excitement and surprise Roque, their coach, by joining her on the ice.
“I was so happy they came to support me,” said Roque, a long-time competitor for the Skating Club of Southern New England.
Though training it was their day off from training, they were ecstatic to come out to Aleixo rink Sunday to get a first-hand glimpse of their coach in full black, white and yellow #Bruins attire.
“It’s fun,” said Anna Comperchio, 11. “Today we are seeing her as a Bruins Girls and tomorrow as a coach.”
Joanne Waters, board member of the Skating Club of Southern New England, said Roque serves as an inspiration to up-and-coming skaters.
When youngsters see what a fellow skater from their necks of the woods “can accomplish and what she’s done just because of her love of the ice,” Waters said it gives others something to look forward to.
For Nelson, who glided onto a rink full of youngsters wearing both figure skates and hockey and skates, her appearance introduced many to a different aspect of skating.
“This is a good opportunity to interact with kids who maybe can’t make it to a game or don’t know much about hockey,” Nelson said. “Our visit opens their eyes to the sport.”
Kelli-Ann Mendes, who attended the event with her 11-year-old daughter Nina, said the Boston Bruins Ice Girls also showcased the versatility of a career in skating, which goes far beyond solo competitions. This was a great thing to see for a young competitor like Nina, who has already expressed such a passion for the sport.
“Whenever she’s faced with anything stressful in life I ask her how she deals with it and she tells me that she just ‘skates faster, spins tighter, and jumps higher,’” said Mendes, whose daughter competes with the Skating Club of Southern New England.
Though Nina is still young, Mendes is certain that her daughter has carved out a promising future in the ice rink, which has become her second home. This mother also hasn’t ruled out the possibility that Nina may don a Boston Bruins Ice Girl uniform one day.
“Anything she wants to do I’ll support it, as long as she has passion for it,” Mendes said. “I’ll do anything it takes to keep her on the ice.”