Women's league celebrates 30th anniversary at Ruicci Cup
The Michigan Women’s Senior Hockey League was started in 1986 when Michele Monson, long an avid hockey fan, told husband Gil Ruicci she was tired of watching. She wanted to play. Gil was game, and together they persuaded close friend Detroit Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay to help start and teach a team.
Monson ran an ad in Hockey Weekly seeking women who would like to play hockey – “No skills required, just a strong sense of humor.” Twenty-six women signed up. Skill levels ranged from ankle benders to a few figure skaters.
Ice time was at Eddie Edgar Ice Arena in Livonia at 7:00 AM Sunday mornings. Initially the arena refused ice time to Monson because “women could not play hockey.” A phone call from Terrible Ted quickly corrected that misunderstanding.
Gil and Ted knew they were making progress when their players did not have to end a cross ice drill by bouncing off the boards. This first team was named the Polar Bears for which Monson is still a competitive player.
By 1988 five teams were playing and formed the Metro Skaters Hockey League sponsored by Gil Ruicci. Today it is the MWSHL, 40 teams strong registering over 700 players in six divisions ranging from novice to former high school and college players aged from 18 to 70. Mothers play with daughters while grandchildren cheer them on.
Typical team names are Spittin Chicklets, Ms. Conduct, Iron Maidens, Goody 2 Shoes, Motor City Crush and Steel Magnolias. Player occupations include full-time moms, entrepreneurs, teachers, health professionals, attorneys, CPAs, members of service industries, automotive line workers and many more.
Ruicci remains the league sponsor. Lindsay attends the annual end-of-season Ruicci Cup Tournament to drop ceremonial pucks, hand out winner and runner-up prizes and pose for pictures with the teams. The first Ruicci Cup was held in 1992 and was won by the Steel Magnolias.
The 27th Ruicci Cup was held March 22-25 at the Eddie Edgar and Devonaire Ice Arenas in Livonia with all championship games at Eddie Edgar.
Between the second and third championship games, a red carpet was rolled out, and, to celebrate its 30th anniversary, the league presented Lindsay and Ruicci personal MWSHL player jerseys with their names on the back and No. 7 for Ted and 88 for Gil, the year the league formed. A rousing cheer, sticks banging boards and shouts of thank you filled the rink.
Five championship games were played on Sunday beginning at 11:00 for Division 5A between the Livonia Griffins and the Ice Breakers. This was a closely played game which ended in a 1-0 victory for the Griffins who proudly held high the Ruicci Cup. Coaches Ken Shureb and Ken Stewart have been guiding the Griffins since they formed four years ago and were very happy with their team.
“What a good game and good effort!” said one Ken. “We kept to our plan, stayed spread out and that opened up the ice,” said the other Ken.
The second game, for the Division 3 title, pitted TOT – one of two squads called The Other Team – against the Wildcats, who chalked up a 5-1 victory and proudly posed with the cup and Lindsay. Said player-coach Michelle Mosier, “It is an honor to work together all season and then win a championship on the League’s 30-year anniversary – and then to celebrate with Gil Ruicci, Michele Monson and Ted Lindsay and to honor them for starting the league and supporting it all these years.
“A friend and I played on a Ruicci Cup championship team 22 years ago, and the Cup was pretty flat then. Look at it now – growing taller like the Stanley Cup!”
In the third game, for the Division 2 crown, the Hammerheads took on the second TOT, which skated away with the Ruicci Cup after a 1- 0 victory.
“Every person on the team contributed to get us here,” said head coach Joe Holder. “It is our second year together. We won the Division Three Ruicci Cup last year and got moved up to Division Two this year and did it again!
“We are very happy for our goaltender, Kim Eberly, who missed last year’s Ruicci Cup; four games and only gave up one goal for this one. As usual the tournament ran perfectly and the refs were great.”
Game Four for Division 5B put the pink-jerseyed Grosse Pointe Chill up against the Cleavers. It was the Chill that won the game, 1-0, and the right to skate around with the Ruicci Cup.
Head coach Tim Van Eckrouse, who has been with the team three years, called the tournament “a ton of fun. You see that my finger nails are pink. I told the team they could do my nails if they got to the championship game, so here we are with the Ruicci Cup.
“The Chill have been together for 12 years, and it is very exciting to see them win this. Big party coming up!”
Game Five for Division 4 saw the Sting Rays defeat the Bombshells 5-2. It ended in a joyful celebration around Sting Rays goaltender Joanne Lukasik who plays on prosthetic legs. (Click here for her story).
Player-coach Laurie Kempisty was quite proud of her Rays. “We were almost last place in our division for the season but were on a win streak so we came in here with momentum and just started rolling in the tournament. We were REALLY focused and Joanne was really on her game. Sometimes we just take her for granted she is so good. She kept on us to stay focused.”
MWSHL President Angela Brayman was very happy with how well the tournament ran and offered her thanks to an exceptional crew of volunteers as well as the excellent refs, the Eddie Edgar Arena staff and most of all the MWSHL players, who had so much fun leaving everything on the ice in pursuit of the Ruicci Cup.