By Mike LaBella
---- — In many ways, Michelle Bushey is a typical housewife and mother.
She gets her twin daughters off to school in the morning, takes them to gymnastics practice twice a week and also works part time as a medical assistant.
But on recent Sunday afternoons, she’s taken on a different persona.
Bushey puts on sneakers, protective gloves, shin guards and a mouth guard, picks up a 4-foot-long stick that her husband gave her, and races up and down the YMCA gym trying to stop other players from scoring a goal. Long the spectator at her daughters’ extra-curricular activities, Bushey is now the one to watch.
She is one 60 women in the YMCA’s first women’s floor hockey league. They range in age from their 30s to their 50s and play on teams with names like “Jen’s Jezebels” and “What were we Thinking.”
”I never played an organized team sport before,” said Bushy, 37 of Haverhill. “It’s very addicting and fun.”
Six teams of 10 players each have been meeting on Sunday afternoons for hour-long games. The six-week regular season concludes March 24, followed by two weekends of playoff games.
”Most of the women on our team haven’t played this before,” said Bushey. “Until now, I don’t think people would call me athletic, but I’ve always been active.”
Bushey said she never gave any thought to playing floor hockey until YMCA sports director Clint Clay mentioned he was starting a new women’s league. She said it sounded like a great way to get in shape and have some fun.
”I looked at my husband and said, ‘Do you think I can do it?’” Bushey said.
Her husband gave her one of his hockey sticks and, with the addition of a few more pieces of equipment, she was ready to play.
”That first game I was completely intimidated,” Bushey said. “I expected it would be rough and that I’d get hurt, but it wasn’t that way.”
These women play with a fair amount of finesse, and, as in women’s ice hockey, they aren’t allowed to check. The league has a no-contact rule, although unintentional collisions do happen.
Clay said he wanted to provide women with an opportunity to be involved in a team sport they would enjoy and have some fun with.
”A lot of the moms and dads love watching their children play floor hockey, so I thought it would be a great chance for moms to play in their own league,” he said. “With the spark of interest in this, we hope to have a women’s basketball league in the fall and maybe a dodge ball league, depending on the interest.
”It makes me happy that we can give women in the community this opportunity,” Clay said.
Bushey said she’s been injury free so far, although it’s always on her mind as one player suffered a split lip in a recent game.
”It’s fast paced and the hour goes by quickly. You’re in constant motion,” said Bushey, who plays defense for the Green Monsta Chicks team.
Bushey said her team lost its first game, but when it ended she was on an adrenaline high that left her hooked on floor hockey.
”We lost 13-2 and I didn’t score as I’m not in front of the net very much,” she said.
She said her husband has taken on the role of her team’s unofficial coach and tries this best to direct the players.
From time to time, she’ll glance at the stands and see her daughters. It brings a smile to her face.
”Our girls cheer us on and hold up home-made signs,” she said. “We go to watch our kids do their things, so why not have them cheer us on?”
Joanne MacKeen, 36, of Haverhill plays forward for the What were we Thinking team.
”At first, I was reluctant to join,” MacKeen said. “I like team sports, but I hadn’t played on a team since I played field hockey at Haverhill High School.”
After her first game, she was hooked, too.
”It was so much fun. I was instantly addicted to floor hockey,” MacKeen said. “It’s been nice getting to know women who have the same interests. And I like aggressive sports.”
MacKeen is in the YMCA building quite a bit. She has two daughters, ages 5 and 7 who participate in gymnastics there, a 4-year-old son who plays on a youth floor hockey league there, and a 17-year-old daughter who volunteers at the YMCA.
”I wanted to do something for me and get some exercise,” MacKeen said. “You always hear about men’s leagues such as basketball, but when I saw the flyer for the women’s floor hockey league, it got my attention.
”We’re not trying to kill anyone out there, but we do play to win,” she said. “I’m definitely going to do it the next time.”