The Eastern Michigan University hockey team faced off against rivals Western Michigan University on Saturday night at the Taylor SportsPlex, but there’s more behind the weekend game than putting the puck in the back of the net against a known foe.
Emma Nowling, 7, was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Taylor SportsPlex Thursday, Dec. 3., a facility used for ice hockey and indoor soccer activities. Nowling and her mother were walking to their vehicle after the young girl’s soccer practice ended. Emma’s mother, Sharon Watson, was also shot and is currently in critical condition. Tim Obeshaw, the shooter and a friend of the girl's mother, then turned the gun on himself.
“The team was actually just arriving for a practice when the incident occurred," said EMU coach John Bartle. "For most of the kids it was a surreal event. The next morning I was thinking about what we could do, and I received several texts from the players asking the same thing. So I would say it was a team decision [to donate to the family].”
Eastern Michigan hockey currently uses the SportsPlex as its home rink, and has done so for the past few seasons. Even though the Eagles are moving to the Ann Arbor Ice Cube for next season, the team saw a golden opportunity to help a family in need in a community in which it is prevalent.
Coincidentally, Eastern Michigan was getting ready to run its Thursday night practice at the SportsPlex when the shooting took place, resulting in the practice getting cancelled. Some of the team was at the facility, while some of the players were on their way to the rink when they heard the news.
“It [the shooting] happened like 30 minutes before we had to be at the rink and it got cancelled right away,” Eagles goalkeeper Chris Dusik said, speaking of the practice. “I think it’s just the right thing for our team to do, and we’re happy to donate the proceeds from the game. We wish the best for the family.”
The Eagles hockey team plans to donate all the proceeds from Saturday night’s game against the Broncos to the family of the deceased in a show of community solidarity that goes well beyond wins, losses and goals scored.
“We are donating the proceeds from both games as well as accepting donations during the games,” Bartle said. "We will also accept donations via our website PayPal account. We also had a moment of silence prior to the National Anthem for both games.
“Prior to our first game against Western, we talked about how valuable life is, and how every day is a gift," Bartle said. "We discussed how that translates to hockey and how it is a privilege to play for a college hockey program and never take it for granted."
Eastern Michigan is currently ranked 55th in the American Collegiate Hockey Association standings, with its season running until mid February where the team will attend play-offs at Kent State University if it qualifies.