It is 6 p.m. on Tuesday, more than an hour and a half until the puck drops in the Dallas Stars-New Jersey Devils game at American Airlines Center. The fans haven't arrived yet , but the Dallas Stars Ice Girls are already hard at work, practicing the evening's routines underneath section 109. The 12 women have been split into two groups -- the skaters, who will be on the ice during TV timeouts and intermissions, and the dancers, who will be on the platform cheering and generating excitement among the fans.
The skaters, who wait in the tunnel leading to the visitor's locker room, will hit the ice at the 14, 10 and 6-minute marks of each period. By NHL rules, the ice surface must be cleaned during the three TV timeouts each period in four designated areas, including in front of the goal. By removing the loose ice, it speeds up the pace of the game and increases scoring chances. While many teams will have as many as 10 men perform this task, the Stars depend on the beautiful Ice Girls to do the job, getting on and off the ice in less than two minutes.
They manage to make this hard work of cleaning the ice appear graceful in front of thousands of people at each of the Stars 47 home games. That's a direct reflection of the the Ice Girls third-year coordinator, Wendy Dutton. She handpicked this group and maps out their positions on the ice in advance. She also decides who will be up on the platform, performing and dancing for the crowd. Each of the girls can do both. When the squad was first selected, over half of the girls knew how to skate while the other girls picked it up quickly.
The Ice Girls are also very knowledgeable on the specifics of the game of hockey as well as the Stars. While several of the girls grew up close to hockey, the others rapidly developed a passion for the game. When they were originally selected, they were quizzed on when the team came to Dallas from Minnesota and what year the Stars won the Stanley Cup to details such as icing and major and minor penalties.
Away from the ice, the women all lead very different lives. They have jobs and careers as varying as dance instructor to a paleontologist. One is a dental hygienist, while another works in an oil field. Two of the Ice Girls are teachers. One of the girls is a nurse while another is an assistant to a buyer. Half of the girls are in college with studies ranging from teaching to Radio-TV-Film.
In addition to ice skating on their own, the girls meet up to practice every Sunday. The skaters and the dancers each have a captain who is responsible for making sure everyone is in the right spot at the right time, whether it's at intermission on the Zamboni or mingling with fans for photos. For this game, veterans Kaime (skaters) and Rachael (dancers) took control of their groups for flawless performances.
The Ice Girls who skated on this night were Kaime, Robbyn, Candace, Christina, Alisha and Katharina. The dancers were Rachael, Laura, Jamie, Shahriela, Shanelle and Megan. While they are essentially cheerleaders for a pro sports team, they do so much more than just rooting on the team. While the Dallas Stars hockey team has been in a bit of a tailspin in the Western Conference standings as of late, the games are still a place to be seen due in no small part to the hard work and effort exhibited by the Ice Girls.
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