Sunday, December 11, 2011

Girls Just Want to Have Fun: The Mother Pluckers Music and Hockey Society in Nova Scotia do just that

 Left to right, back row: Sue Martin, Wanda White, Jane Campana, Kelly Lee, Eliza Manuel, Debbie MacDonald Gray, Janice Coyle, and Nancy (Mac) MacLean.  In front: Maria Andersen, Ellen Gaudet and Corrine Boudreau

by Jan Snyder

In Nova Scotia, as in the rest of Canada, hockey is the national pastime.  Eleven Mother Puckers, all mothers aged 40 to 59 who play hockey, enjoyed each other’s company so much that the frivolity on the ice carried into music after they unlaced their skates.  This is the story of how the Mother Puckers hockey team morphed into the Mother Pluckers Music and Hockey Society.

In December of 2010, Mac and Jane, both being new at the music game, got together to jam.  They decided they wanted to play Bye Bye Love at the annual Christmas party they held in conjunction with a men’s hockey team.

Jane had only been playing keyboard for a year, Mac was just beginning to learn how to play the drums and neither could sing in tune. They were in desperate need of a guitar playing singer. After a game of hockey one day all the players met for lunch and that's when they discovered that Ellen Gaudet could sing and play the guitar. It was an easy snare.   

They met the following week after hockey and sat chatting for over an hour. They had so much in common and the conversation flowed.  Eventually they got down to business. Mac only brought a snare drum at that point, but it was enough to keep the beat. As it turned out, Ellen was already an experienced musician, but at that time Jane didn't know how to adapt the beat of the song to the singer. The result was a disastrous session and they couldn't get though the song. They found it very disappointing. They kept at it, though, because with a name like Mother Puckers, it’s gotta be good!  Things took off after that first practice as more of the hockey players joined the ‘jam sessions.’

“After what I thought was a particularly good rendition of Bye, Bye Love, I turned around to see Janice with her fingers in her ears,” Jane said. ‘You guys are awful,’ she said, ‘You're all on a different beat and Jane is playing too fast. You need to start again and listen to each other.’

"She was right, but she also proved in that pivotal moment that she had a good ear and wasn't afraid to say what she thought. Because she didn't have an instrument to play and we didn't know yet that she could sing, we appointed her band director to make her feel part of the group. Little did we know at the time just how much we'd come to rely on her. It's a thankless role to keep law and order amongst 11women let alone book performances and make sure everyone has the right song list and shirt, but Janice does it all extremely well.”

Here is a recap on how the other members fell into line.  Maria took up playing the fiddle in 2008, joined the group and never looked back. Eliza, the entrepreneur, revisited the guitar and sings lead vocals. Kelly, originally a vocalist, followed in her husband’s footsteps and learned the bass guitar. Corrine, the group’s baby, and mother of two young children, is a guitarist, vocalist and song writer. Debbie came out of hockey retirement and picked up the guitar after many years away from it. Sue plays tough defense, is a vocalist and brings comedic relief to the group. Wanda, the goalie and campfire singer, thought she died and went to heaven when asked to be a part of this amazing group of women.

So now they were a band – the question was who wanted to hear them play?  The members of the Mother Pluckers came to realize that they were not only a hockey team, not only a band, but a group of similar-aged women who were helping each other through various life experiences.  All the women are givers and it didn’t take long for the idea to come to them that they could pay it forward by using their talents and entertain senior citizens. 

On May 6, 2010, they gave their very first performance at the Melville Lodge, home to Mother Pucker Sue Martin’s elderly mother, Violet. And, as they say, the rest is history.  

Being the creative women that they are, they soon hatched a plan aimed at bigger and better things.  They applied for and in July 2011, received a grant from The Nova Scotia Department of Seniors for funding to promote Positive Aging throughout Nova Scotia

On October 20, 2011, they rented ice and invited seniors to watch them play hockey.  Two nursing homes provided transportation for their residents, and other seniors the group had performed for previously came along as well to watch a game between the Mother Puckers and a team comprised of all-too-willing volunteers.  Lunch was provided for the spectators, and was followed by a performance by the newly-minted Mother Pluckers, post-hockey hair and all.

The Mother Pluckers Song Book consists of standards that their audience knows and likes to sing along with, like “Red River Valley” and “Tennessee Waltz.”  The nursing home residents seem to come alive and become engaged, especially when the Mother Pluckers sing and play.

According to their website, their mission is simple. “We are role models for positive aging through our music and hockey with lots of fun and laughter.”

But they never lose sight of the hockey component to all this.  A recent claim to fame includes being kicked off the ice this past summer, only to see Pittsburgh Penguin, Sidney Crosby skate on after them as he continued his rehab from a concussion. “There was Sid leaning on the same boards I’d crashed into just a little while before,” Mac said.  

The Mother Plucker gigs continue.  In September they played during the Opening Ceremonies of the Nova Scotia +55 Games.  All eleven participated in the tournament, but on different teams.  Hockey and music continue to be intertwined. “The grant allows us to plan bigger road trips, and we did twenty-two in 2011 before receiving the grant,” Janice said.  

Even as they look out for one another, they are also spreading happiness to the elderly.

To learn more about the Mother Puckers/Mother Pluckers or to follow their journey, visit their website: 

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