Double axels and slapshots are not often mentioned in the same sentence.
Figure skaters and hockey players are often seen as opposites, but for the Champlain Valley girls hockey team, figure skaters and hockey players are the same thing.
Sylvie Shanks, Samantha Shanks and Izette Kelly wear both pairs of skates, playing for the Redhawks while performing as competitive figure skaters.
“I grew up around the rink, both as a figure skater and watching my brother play hockey, so I decided my sophomore year to go ahead and give (hockey) a try,” said Sylvie Shanks, a senior. “I thought it would be fun and I am comfortable on skates.”
Head coach Ben Psaros is certainly glad that the trio of skaters decided to take on the sport, without them, along with two skaters from Burlington High School, CVU would not be able to field a team.
“I calculated it the other day, we have four girls on our team that have skated prior to high school hockey,” Psaros said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be playing hockey. So, it’s pretty cool.”
Sylvie Shanks, who has been figure skating for 14 years and playing hockey for only three, is a team captain and forward.
“For her leadership ability, her attitude, her energy, for being willing to learn and ask questions,” Psaros said. “She is a really awesome girl, all three of them are.”
Kelly, who has been figure skating since she 7 years old, joined the team last season. The junior defenseman said the skating skills she learned in figure skating have made the transition to ice hockey easier.
“It helps a lot with backwards skating” Kelly said. “I know that is our forte when we play hockey. It general, the skating part of it comes so much easier.
“The skating is easy for us so we can help other people with the skating, but with the actual hockey part of it, I find its better to talk to the people who have been playing hockey for a long time.”
Samantha Shanks is the newest player to join the team, coming to CVU last season as a freshman.
“Figure skating, you are lot more used to grace and poise on the ice,” Sylvie Shanks said. “That is something our coaches still try to get out of us all the time, is to just to forget that part and just go, go, go, and skate as hard as you can.”
The skills that all three girls have worked on for years are helping the other CVU players, as they can help on the ice, but also impart some advice to other players without as much skating experience.
“All three of them really should be playing defense because of their ability to skate backwards,” Psaros said. “Izette, I see her out there, talking to girls about skating. She just loves to be out on the ice.”
The hockey team is not the only one benefiting from the three skaters’ double duty. All three girls mentioned some parts of ice hockey that have carried over into figure skating.
“Definitely power, I can go faster on my figure skates,” Samantha Shanks said. “I also feel personal motivation, in hockey you push yourselves to help your team, but with figure skating, it has helped change my mindset and made me want to push myself harder.”
One thing that stands out for all three skaters, and has made them stick with a tough routine that sees them often hitting the ice twice a day — once for figure skating and a second time with hockey — is a love of the team.
“I know as a team we are developing, we’re a new team, a lot of us haven’t been playing for a long time,” Kelly said. “It’s fun that we are all learning at the same time. That’s one of my favorite aspects of hockey. It’s fun to go out on the ice and have that aggression.”
“I know I have grown to love to play the game. I’ve grown to love to get on the ice and do something for the team.”
In between games and practices with Champlain Valley, Sylvie Shanks, Samantha Shanks and Kelly find time for some competition and testing to move up in the different ranks of figure skating.