Lisa Ramos didn't necessarily expect to become a hockey mom, but when she did, she discovered a sport she would love for the rest of her life.
Her son, Ayo Adeniye, was 3 years old when he went to an ice-skating party at one of the OhioHealth Chiller ice rinks and became hooked. All these years later, that proved to be the right choice, as Adeniye made it all the way to the AAA Blue Jackets and continues to play junior hockey in Canada.
Her son may be gone from Columbus now -- and Ramos herself lives in Mississippi along the Gulf Coast -- but Ramos remains a diehard Blue Jackets fan and evangelist of the sport, as well as a supporter of the Columbus Ice Hockey Club that helped give Adeniye his start.
So what better way to marry those passions than Sunday, when Ramos helped organize the first Black Girl Hockey Club meetup at a Blue Jackets game. Created by Renee Hess, the BGHC tries to connect female black hockey fans and encourage more diversity in a sport that could use it.
To Ramos, it was a no-brainer to try to bring that energy to Columbus given her ties to the CIHC, a Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation grant partner whose mission is to allow youth from diverse communities and extenuating circumstances in Central Ohio the opportunity to develop core values through hockey and use it as a vehicle to open doors and excel in all aspects of their lives.
"I love what they do, what they stand for, and I thought what better way to try to pull together the Black Girl Hockey Club and Columbus Ice Hockey Club than to do this event," she said Sunday at Nationwide Arena. "This morning we did a jamboree with the Columbus Ice Hockey Club, a lot of those girls from the jamboree came to the Black Girl Hockey Club meetup today, so it's a chance for us to do an on-ice and a fan-based activity."
The meetup at the game featured about 20 people, including Ramos and some family members as well as members of the Columbus Ice Hockey Club. Included were Ebony and Essence Wyse, twin sisters who play for the Olentangy High School hockey team.
In all, three of the attendees had never been to a hockey game before, but it was clear all were enjoying themselves with an experience that finished on a high note as the Blue Jackets rallied to beat Vancouver with four goals in the final eight minutes.
"We're having a great time," Ramos said. "I brought some people who have not experienced a hockey game before so I'm explaining them the rules and they're really excited, so we're having a real good time."
That comes as no surprise to Hess, who was introduced to the sport about a decade ago when she was visiting Pittsburgh, a city where the passion for hockey runs deep.
"BGHC always has a good time when we get together," she told BlueJackets.com via email. "We are all huge hockey fans and just love spending time enjoying the game and everything that comes with it. There is something really special about sharing the sport we love with others who have similar backgrounds and experiences."
While Hess now lives in California, her experiences as a hockey fan were influenced by her first days attending games. She'd have fun but noticed there weren't many faces that looked like hers in the stands, so she figured there had to be more black women who were into the sport just like her. She began to think about ways to bring that constituency together, and the Black Girl Hockey Club was born.
"In order for marginalized groups to feel accepted in the hockey community, having folks who we can visibly identify with is so important," Hess said. "Black Girl Hockey Club brings together not only Black women, but our friends, families and allies. We are an inclusive space that includes people of all races, genders, sexualities and abilities.
"I'm incredibly proud that BGHC has infiltrated arenas all over the country. I love to hear stories of women meeting each other through BGHC and spending time together at games or other events because they were able to develop a connection via the mission of Black Girl Hockey Club."
Since the first meetup in December 2018 in Washington DC, the organization has become one that embodies the spirit of Hockey Is For Everyone. The Black Girl Hockey Club's social media presence continues to grow, and meetups have been held at arenas across the country. Recently, Hess has transitioned the club into being a nonprofit dedicated to helping young black girls succeed on the ice.
Sunday night, that celebration of diversity in the game came to Columbus, where Ramos was thrilled to see young girls loving the chance to see live hockey just as she has come to over the past few decades.
"If you look at being able to bring black youth players together along with fans," she said, "the great thing about the Black Girl Hockey Club is you don't have to play to be able to participate. It was great to be able to bring both players and fans together."