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Nichols Girls Hockey: The Viking Helmet

Traditions have to start somewhere and this has already made its mark.

As the Nichols School Lady Vikings hockey team continues their efforts to capture championships in the North American Prep Hockey Association and Conference of Independent Scholastic Athletics Association, they are inspired on a daily basis by their first-year tradition of the Viking helmet. After every game, win or lose, one girl from the team is awarded a viking helmet as the Player of the Game.

“The whole idea was actually started by our goalie Jada Brenon,” Vikings captain Taylor Pietrowski said. “We were going through kind of a rough patch in the season. We wanted something that would sort of give us an incentive (about the importance) of doing the little things right.”

Brenon, a senior, felt that while the team had all the skill in the world to make their championship dreams come true there was something missing. That one little facet that makes good teams truly great. Brenon knew she and her teammates had it in them to be great. It was just a matter of finding a way to draw it out of everyone. To help everyone remember the importance of the intangibles like heart and effort. Doing all of the little things that don’t show up on the scoresheet, but are a crucial component to winning.

“That’s the best thing about it is that they brought it up themselves,” Lady Vikings head coach Shelley Looney said. “It was their idea. They actually brought it to the team and told us (coaches) about it. It shows that they want to bring something to show that the team is together. It’s not about goals and assists. It’s about who put the effort in.”

The winner signs her name and date she won it on the helmet. An instant hit, girls battle hard every night in hopes of winning the helmet. Not for bragging rights, but because of what it stands for. Winning the helmet comes with the pride and satisfaction of knowing that you did your best for the team and that your peers acknowledged your effort. “It means a lot because it’s really special to our team,” said defenseman Victoria Mariano, who was the first recipient of the helmet. “Just the things that you do in the game to contribute.”

Though its not uncommon for teams to have their own take on player of the game award-things like a hardhat-the passing of the viking helmet has a twist. Instead of the team voting on a winner during a post game huddle, the previous winner of the helmet passes it on to the next girl. Sounds easy, right? Not so fast.

The passing of the helmet requires the previous winner to list the reasons why she picked the girl who she deemed worthy enough to be the next to wear the viking helmet. Not only does this format keep best friends from just passing it back and forth to each other, it forces the girls to open their eyes. To truly watch, understand and appreciate everything each girl does in her own way to contribute to team success. From passing and backchecking to scoring goals and making saves. It’s all connected.

“Once you get the hat you have to decide who gets the hat after you,” Jada Brenon said, “so it’s that extra responsibility that you have to your teammates that you have to make the right decision and back up your (choice) with an explanation.” Not only does it foster accountability in the room when you tell your teammates and coaches who you are passing the helmet to, it translates to girls holding each other more accountable on the ice.

“Every game it’s something to work for so it’s not like you can take a shift off because you’re always working towards something,” Brenon said. “It’s like something to keep your teammates accountable to you. If they’re working hard then you have to work hard because you want to beat them out for the hat. It’s just something that you can work for every game.”

Unlike other awards that might be more stat-based, the viking helmet is about giving your best and the most complete effort at whatever your role on the team is. Or just showing the heart to gut through an injury-like Claire McGennis who gave an inspiring effort when she played through a broken wrist.

4-1 W over @BishopStrachan. Viking hat goes to @clairem0702 for breaking her wrist but still chucking up the peace — Nichols Girls Hockey (@nicholsghockey) January 30, 2018

Though the helmet is an individual honor, the players feel that the desire for that solo honor translates into greater results on the ice for the team because as girls see how hard each other is working they gain a greater respect and appreciation for each other.

“What’s kind of fun about it is it’s so hard to pick out just one person because we have so many people who have such amazing accomplishments in any given game,” Pietrowski said.

You can follow the team via twitter: @nicholsghockey

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