Monday, July 30, 2012

Face of Defense: Hockey Couple Find Ice Nice

By Wayne Amann
Air Force News Service

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, July 30, 2012 – It's Friday night and a husband and wife are on a date -- of sorts.
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Married Air Force officers 1st Lt. Andrew Caulk and 1st Lt. Jennifer Caulk talk strategy on the bench at the Ice and Golf Center at Northwoods in San Antonio, Texas, July 20, 2012. Hockey is one of many sports the duo plays for fitness, fun and quality time together. U.S. Air Force photo by William Belcher

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
While other couples are taking in a movie, enjoying a restaurant meal or socializing with friends, married Air Force officers 1st Lt. Andrew Caulk and 1st Lt. Jennifer Caulk are chasing a three-inch by one-inch piece of vulcanized rubber with graphite sticks on a 200-foot by 85-foot slippery surface.

They're teammates on the Angry Unicorns, a hockey team in the Adult Recreational League that skates at the Ice and Golf Center at Northwoods rink in suburban San Antonio, Texas.

For Andrew, of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency and Jennifer, with the 453 Electronic Warfare Squadron here, playing hockey serves a purpose in their lives.

"It's important to spend quality time together, especially when neither of us is deployed," Jennifer said. "Playing sports is a great way to multitask fitness, fun and relationship-building."

The Caulks enjoy more conventional activities together like racquetball, walleyball, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, yoga, running, biking and sailing. But, hockey offers them a rugged edge they don't shy away from.

"Jenn is a very tough woman," Andrew said. "I saw her get knocked down against a couple guys playing ultimate Frisbee and she jumped up and kept going."

Jennifer isn't overly concerned about Andrew's safety either.

"He's been playing without a cage or shield attached to his helmet, but we're in a no-checking league so there's much less risk of injury," she said. "We wear so many pads that in most situations when we have a significant impact we don't feel any pain."

The couple's hockey interest surfaced at different points in their lives.

"I grew up in Florida, so I had very little exposure to ice, besides what we kept in our freezer," said Jennifer, who hails from Orlando. "I started playing hockey because it was the closest sport to broomball, which I fell in love with while attending the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, from 2008 to 2010."

Meanwhile, her husband, who grew up in Cheboygan, Mich., has been a hockey fan since his childhood days.

"I always wanted to play hockey. However, it's an expensive sport and we couldn't afford it growing up," Andrew said. "So I played a lot of street hockey with my friends, then went ice skating as I got older. I am from Michigan after all."

The ARL sports three other teams, the Warriors, the Kodiaks and the Honey Badgers. Each team plays a 12-game schedule. Each game uses a one-hour running clock.

The league is one of three at Northwoods, all organized by the director of hockey operations and former National Hockey League player Dale Henry.

"I think it's great that married couples want to play a sport together they both enjoy," Henry said. "Hockey is growing as a recreational sport because it's great exercise, and the players like being part of a team."

ARL players range from those just starting to play the game, to those who've been playing a few years. The ARL is designed for players looking to get a good skate in a relaxed atmosphere.

"Not only are the games fun, but they're great for your body and your mind. They're stress relievers," Jennifer said. "Our team has a positive attitude and they're newcomer-friendly."

On this particular Friday night the Honey Badgers out-skated the Angry Unicorns 14-2, dropping the pink jersey-clad team's record to 0-2. For the Caulks, it's not about the score.

"I don't play particularly well, but I have a lot of fun doing it with the right people," Jennifer said.

Her line mate on the team and in life, Andrew, agrees.

"Anyone interested in playing hockey with their spouse should go for it," he said. "Make sure you're prepared for the soreness though!"

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