Total Mayhem: Program gives girls opportunity to play with, against other girls

Back in the early 2000s, Columbus had a women’s hockey team called the Indiana Blades.

That program went away after a couple of years, and since then, a handful of girls have played on youth boys teams in Columbus.

Now, a full-fledged girls program, the Columbus Mayhem, is up and running. The Mayhem have three teams — 14-and-under, 12U and 10U — and play and practice out of the Hamilton Community Center and Ice Arena.

The Mayhem program is in its third year, but its first year playing a full schedule of games.

“The first year was pretty loose, and it was more of just trying to attract girls enough to have enough numbers to play a game or two,” said Matt Taylor, coach of the 14U team. “We did a tournament at the end of the year here, and it all went pretty well, and then last year, we really started trying to build up to moving from borrowing rink jerseys to getting our own team jerseys and stuff like that.”

Sydney Morrow, a sophomore at CSA-New Tech, has been playing hockey for four years, but mostly on boys teams. She is the goalie for the Mayhem 14U girls team and also is the starting goalie for the Icemen Prep junior varsity high school boys squad.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Morrow said. “It’s busy, but I’ve learned how to balance it out a lot. It’s great to have the girls team, which is a little bit slower and less rough, but also being able to go out and play with the Icemen, where it’s a lot more faster paced, and it’s given me a lot more opportunities to develop as a goaltender.”

Taylor’s daughter Mia, an eighth-grader at St. Bartholomew, also has been playing for four years. She also plays for Indiana Elite and Indiana Fusion teams when she isn’t playing for the Mayhem.

“I like playing with the girls better because you can have better friendships,” Mia Taylor said. “With the boys, you have to get dressed in a separate locker room. (With girls hockey), you can talk to people while you’re getting dressed, and you have better connections. With boys, they can be mean. Girls stick together, and boys go off and do their own thing.”

Morrow also enjoys the camaraderie aspect of girls hockey.

“Before I transitioned to playing co-ed hockey, it was a great way to get on the ice more often, as opposed to being on the ice two days a week,” Morrow said. “I get to be on the ice four or five days a week. I play with a lot of the girls that are also on co-ed, so it’s better to cultivate those friendships with the same gender who have the same interests as opposed to trying to play with boys the entire time. It’s great to have people in the locker room with me who try to motivate me.”

Kayla Hooton, a native Canadian, is helping out with the Mayhem program. Hooton’s father owned a junior hockey team in Ontario, and she played AA hockey for Barrie College in Ontario.

“It’s more of a lifestyle back in Canada,” Hooton said. “Here, it’s just making them find the lifestyle and then love it. They’re not born into it. I feel as though we start on skates really young (in Canada), and it’s kind of in your blood. You grab Tim Horton’s, and you go to the hockey rink.”

Hooton’s husband Rick coaches the boys 14U Flames hockey team. They have two young daughters who they are introducing to the sport.

“I love to watch the girls play hockey,” Kayla Hooton said. “It’s such a different game. I just love girls hockey. These girls, since I came out here in May, I feel they’ve improved a lot. They’re doing really good. It’s cool to see them fall in love with it more and more.”

That was what happened with Kelly (Simpson) Schwarze. She became the first girl to play hockey in Columbus at age 5 in the 1970s.

“I saw kids my age doing that at the rink, and I said, I want to do that,” Schwarze said. “Literally within 10 minutes, I was signed up to play hockey.”

Schwarze played from ages 5 to 14, then took a break from hockey and played golf for Columbus North for two years. When the Blades formed in the early 2000s, returned to playing hockey in her 30s.

“It was so nice to get to be on the ice again and compete,” Schwarze said. “It had been so long since I had done it. Once you do it, it’s in your blood.”

Schwarze is glad to see the return of girls hockey in Columbus.

“That is awesome,” Schwarze said. “I am so excited that they have a girls team going. I remember when my son was a toddler, seeing a Columbus Youth Hockey float in the parade, and three girls were rollerblading behind it. I thought maybe they’ll get something going, but it took this long.”

The Mayhem 14U team played its first two games of the season Sunday in Westfield. The Mayhem tied Indianapolis Fusion 1-1 and lost 5-0 to a team from Glenview, Illinois.

“A lot of teams it seems like with the ladies hockey, you get a wider variety of skill sets, and you get a lot of ebbs and flows in terms of recruitment and the skill sets that each one of those players have,” Matt Taylor said. “The Glenview team that we were playing against, all those girls had been playing since they were mites. They’ve been playing together since they were 7, 8 years old, vs. a lot of these ladies who have only been playing together for a couple of years now.”

The 14U team, which consists of 10 girls, has seven games scheduled this fall and is planning to add a few more. The 10U team opens its season Sunday against the Indianapolis Fusion in Westfield.

The 12U team, coached by Chuck Fry, and the 10U squad, coached by Lance Winn, each feature seven or eight girls.

“It’s great,” Matt Taylor said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm with the girls and a lot of interest. I’ve seen a lot of friendships formed. The girls keep coming back. The numbers haven’t been going down, so I think that we’re doing some things right.”