Photos: Chris Guillen

Five faithful Puckers

Thursday and Sunday evenings this winter, a bloc of ice time at one or the other of Glencoe’s two outdoor rinks is reserved for a women’s hockey team that includes several Sunday school teachers, lots of PTA members, and an elementary school principal. They skate onto the ice suited up in pads and gear, topped off by black and white team shirts. The name in the logo tells you all you need to know about this team: “Glencoe Mother Puckers.”


Competitive women’s hockey teams dot the city and suburbs, but they generally play indoors-as do most men’s teams-and “very few do it with as much style as we do,” says Mo Ulicny, a mother of two boys and a Mother Pucker since the club’s inception five years ago. “We wear all-black gear because it’s slimming.” Given that many of these mothers had hardly worn ice skates before joining the team, there’s a fair amount of skating into the wall, falling down, and inadvertent body-slamming of one another. That’s to be expected from any group of novice hockey players, but, says Al Pecka, the volunteer coach and a Mother Pucker husband, “When these women run into each other, they say, ‘Oh, sorry,’ and that’s not hockey.”

A few of the Mother Puckers-such as Estelle Ure, whose backyard is next to the two rinks at May Watts Park-are longtime skaters who drill their teammates on stick handling, crossovers, and passing. Still, the whole adventure stays largely noncompetitive. “It’s great stress relief to play hockey outdoors,” says Wendy Allen, the principal at Glencoe’s West School, who allows that she is the only one among some 30 Puckers who is not, in fact, a mother. “The fresh air feels good, and you laugh and have a friendly game.”

Lisa Pecka, whose husband, Al, coaches the team.

Patty Talbot, Ure’s neighbor and a hockey mom whose back porch is heaped with gear bags, says it all started in 2000 when her son Max, then a fourth grader, and some West School classmates challenged their principal, Allen’s predecessor, Catherine Wang, to a hockey shootoff. “I said, ‘We can’t get these competitive fathers around here involved,'” Talbot recalls, “‘so what if the mothers and teachers challenge the third and fourth graders?'” That idea evolved into the West Cup Challenge, now an annual fundraiser for the school, and the formation of the Mother Puckers.

The double-entendre of its name has made the team a slap shot with locals. Talbot says her banker and neighborhood merchants get a kick out of greeting her with “Hey, Mother Pucker.” Explaining the name to their kids is something else. “You just tell them it’s something adults created just for fun,” says Allen. But when one kid theorized that the letters “GMP” on the old, less candid logo meant “Glencoe’s Moms and Principals,” she let it go, uncorrected.