The last practice before every series, a shootout competition is held and it is a contest that carries a unique consequence for the loser.
The loser must wear the ‘bender bucket’ for the entirety of the next shootout competition the following week. Assistant coaches Gina Kearns and Casey McCullion were in charge of designing the “bender bucket.” After a trip the two took to Michaels — which Kearns described got out of hand-the bucket features googly eyes, stickers and pipe cleaners among other defining features.
Forward Birdie Shaw is credited with the coining the name during the team’s weekend series in Vermont and the bucket made its debut the following week before the Nittany Lions’ two games against Syracuse, when forward Katie Zinn wore it.
The title, “bender”, refers to new players that do not tie their skates tight enough, thus making them bend at the ankles and knees while bucket is another term for helmet.
Kearns said it is common for a team to have a consequence for losing the shootout competition and one of the older forms of punishment leaves the winner eating an orange and the loser eating an onion. Kearns also said her and McCullion wanted to add colors and craziness to make the helmet embarrassing, but still laughable.
“It’s definitely a culture thing,” the Boston University grad, Kearns, said. “It’s just a fun thing [and] it’s kind of that we’ve prepared as much as we can for the week, now let’s have a little fun.”
Although Shaw has not worn the “bender bucket” yet, she said it reminds her of a unicorn or something related to a fairytale because of the princess ribbon. The 5-foot-2 freshman also said it is a “fun family thing to do” and it translates to game situations.
“[It] get us together and just has us laugh together,” Shaw said. “It’s the same in a game. I think it has both effects of learning to just brush it off if you don’t score and kind of relieving the tension.”
The Troy, Mich. native also said the team pokes fun at the “bender bucket” wearers, especially forward Shannon Yoxheimer, who is the team’s leading scorer, because of her competitiveness.
Other players who have worn the helmet include defenders Sarah Wilkie and Jordin Pardoski and the most recent “winner,” forward Jill Holdcroft.
Pardoski said the “bender bucket” stands out and it is “very girly.” The Rochester Hills, Mich. native also said she embraced the fact that she lost and that she had to wear it, but she wants to avoid wearing it again.
“It was heavier than the average helmet,” Pardoski said. “It was more distracting just because there are ribbons coming off of it and there’s a visor on it. It makes you feel like a different person just because how much different it looks.”
When it was Pardoski’s turn to wear the helmet, Kearns told her to put the helmet on too early and it was too much of a hassle to take it off, so she was forced to wear it during the team’s sprinting drill before the shootout contest.
Kearns said there can be a repeat “bender bucket” recipient, but not in back-to-back weeks.
The assistant coach also said the “bender bucket” is something the players will take with them no matter where they go.
“It’s just another tradition that they get to pass along to future Lions,” Kearns said. “It’ll be fun for them, 10 years down the line, when they come back for an alumni game, to see the ‘bender bucket’ still going on.”