This article was originally published on February 3. 2020.
The Zamboni is finished smoothing the ice. Golden Earring’s 1982 song Twilight Zone — a sports fan favorite — fades out. And Brooke Spiegel leads her team onto the ice.
The Women’s Ice Hockey captain won the face-off. She then, 27 seconds into the period, knocks the puck in for a goal. Fifteen seconds later, Brooke scored again. And the fans in the stands — which were so full that a student enjoyed a hotdog in the food-restricted area and went unnoticed as he enjoyed the standard concession stand fare — pumped their fists in the air to the “Let’s Go Blue” chant.
By the time the game ended, Brooke had a hat trick (as did teammate Claudia Maguire). The final score: 12-0. Not that some of the opposing team’s fans even saw it. With five minutes left in the third period, they began to filter out. A man in a Michigan hockey jersey, returning to the Fieldhouse after grabbing his camera from the car, saw them leaving and asked if the game was over. “It is for us,” a woman wearing red replied.
As Brooke skated off the ice, she celebrated with her team. But they weren’t just in the moment. They also had sights on what’s next: Getting to the American Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs and winning a title.
With team stats like an average 6.67 goals per game and a 16-2 record (they split the series with U-M and Sault College in Canada), that’s not surprising.
That is, until you hear that it’s the team’s first year. And the team is made of mostly freshmen and sophomores.
“People didn’t expect us to be this good. After we began winning games, other teams from around the country tried to get on our schedule, but we couldn’t fit them in,” says Brooke, a sophomore who was the first player signed to the team. The team, currently ranked No. 2 in their division, will know if they make playoffs by the end of the month.
We spent time with Brooke last week to see how a player on this inaugural team — eyeing a championship trophy — balances time on and off the ice on an average weekday.
Brooke typically attends a 7 a.m. Student Athlete Advisory Committee meeting on this day, but it was moved to next week. Enjoying the extra sleep, Brooke began her day at 9 a.m. by unpacking her water, laptop, and papers in Lecturer Gerald Holowicki’s Introduction to Operations Management course. There are guest speakers from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles who are speaking to the class on product development. The class heads outside after the presentation to check out a 2020 Dodge Charger, which is a shade of blue — perfect for a Michigan campus, which is noticed and appreciated by Brooke.
Following that class, Brooke — who plans to major in marketing and wants to work for a sports company or a sports team — continues her pre-business course schedule. She heads down the Fairlane Center South Hall for Lecturer Patty Graybeal’s Managerial Accounting class. Brooke has a test next week and Graybeal has students break into small groups for study sessions, while she walks around the class to give personalized assistance. While speaking to Brooke about accounting equations, they also talk about sports — Graybeal did track and was a distance runner — and the dedication it takes to play.
It’s almost 12:30, so Brooke heads to the Fieldhouse. It’s her break in-between classes. She sometimes stops for physical therapy, but she has a test at 2 p.m. today, so she chooses to study. After checking in at the Wellness Center for the required study hours all athletes have, Brooke heads to a quiet table on the second floor of the Fieldhouse. While eating lunch — her mom made pasta last night and there were leftovers — one of her hands is on the computer while the other is balancing food on the fork.
Her schedule is very regimented — there’s no real time for extras — but she’s ok with that. She’s been skating since preschool and remembers spending her time as a youth traveling for hockey games — first on a boy’s team, then on a girl’s starting around age 8 — and having little time for anything else. Her number today, 21, was the number she was given when she transitioned to the girls’ team, which she sees as a significant milestone. “If I didn’t have a chance to grow up playing with girls, I’d have a different style of play today. And I don’t know if I’d be here today. It’s important that everyone has an opportunity to be involved in something they love.” She then shares that she spends most of her Monday nights after practice coaching youth girls’ hockey in Trenton.
Her interest began because her dad played and coached hockey — and she remembers her older brothers playing and wanting to get involved too.
Her older brother Andrew, ‘19 B.B.A., was on the UM-Dearborn men’s ice hockey team and Brooke says she almost didn’t attend here because other colleges were looking to recruit her and she wanted to go her own way. But a visit to campus changed her mind. “Walking around campus, it just felt like home. If you’ve even been a UM-Dearborn student, you know what I mean.”
She also liked the idea of having a role in beginning a program. Her high school, Ladywood — where Brooke was the captain who led her hockey team to state finals — closed after her senior year. “I saw the end of one very strong program and I wanted to be behind the scenes when helping to build up another.”
Packing up her laptop and traveling back to Fairlane Center South, Brooke is ready to take her Corporate Finance test in Lecturer Nick Vlisides classroom. She said it’s not her favorite subject, but she enjoys her teacher’s banter with class. Once, when she let him know that she’d have to miss class because of a tournament schedule, he joked that he’d deduct points unless she put some numbers on the boards. Her reply? ““Does it mean you’ll give extra credit?
End of the day.
Returning to the Fieldhouse, Brooke finally stops in for physical therapy at the Wellness Center. It’s a busy place where women are getting taped up before games and practice. Women’s basketball players were waiting to be seen before their 5 p.m. game. A softball player had to get on the bus to head to a tournament in Chicago and stopped in for a quick check on her arm.
Brooke says she’s there for an injury that she’s agreed to get checked prior to suiting up. She doesn’t typically get taped up prior to practice because she wants to test her endurance, but “they turn me into a mummy with all that tape” before games. Other hockey players were getting checked out too — one woman had a concussion from an on-ice impact and relaxed on the therapy table, another had a physical therapist help her sore back by stretching.
Hopping off the table, Brooke thanks Athletic Trainer Kelsey Rasky for “working her magic” and heads down the Fieldhouse stairs into the locker room to dress for practice. The team tries to start practice promptly at 4:30 p.m., but instead gathers at the gate to discuss upcoming games as they wait for the Zamboni to finish smoothing the ice.
After the Zamboni is parked in the garage, Brooke helps her teammate Victoria Hahn adjust her goalie pads and they head out to warm up before Head Coach Tim Ames has the team do passing and conditioning drills. As the women do the lightning drills, they stop in unison at the blue lines. Their passing is precise. They are in-sync when they play. After 6 p.m., the team puts the equipment away and goes over their strategy for the next game, which is away against Miami-Ohio.
Around 7 p.m., Brooke emerges from the locker room, her pink backpack — that’s her favorite color; it’s on her hockey stick too — over her shoulder. Instead of traveling home, she walks to the library to continue her study hours.
“It can be chaos. Like most athletes in season, I’m here for 12 hours most days. But it’s worth it. As soon as I step on the ice, all is calm.”
Well, as long as you’re not on the other team.
Editor’s Note: The UM-Dearborn women’s ice hockey team won the Jan. 31 Miami-Ohio game 15-0. Their next three home games are 2 p.m. Saturday against Concordia, and 3 p.m. Feb. 21 and 2 p.m. Feb. 22 against Miami-Ohio.