Puck Drop

Company Camaraderie on Ice

By Eric Scott

At 5:36 a.m., the temperature is a frosty 28 degrees and snowflakes are beginning to fall from the skies over Rolling Meadows, Illinois. In the pre-dawn darkness, several Northrop Grumman employees are emerging from their cars, lugging heavy bags over their shoulders as they walk through the frigid morning air. All are heading to the front door of an empty, cavernous building for a weekly team meeting.

But this employee get-together is far different from your usual Outlook calendar session. No conference room, no laptops or cell phones are needed and there’s never a PowerPoint presentation. The primary tools for this company meeting are taped-up fiberglass sticks, sharpened steel blades and lots of Velcro-secured protective gear to avoid injuries from potential collisions and flying rubber discs.

Welcome to another session of the Rolling Meadows Hockey Club.

Skating at Sunrise

Before another workday begins, Northrop Grumman employees with a passion for playing ice hockey meet on Thursday mornings at a rink down the street from the Rolling Meadows office. There, they lace up for a 6:00 a.m. puck drop on a friendly, co-ed scrimmage. Players of all skill levels are encouraged to hit the ice — from those who’ve been playing since they were kids to others who’ve only recently taken up hockey as their new sport, including this writer.

“I wouldn’t have had the chance to know so many across a wide variety of company functions if it weren’t for the club.”

— Jake L., electronics engineer and hockey club acting president

“I quickly realized that the club was a great way to have a regular workout routine and to break up the week with a more social activity in the morning,” said Michael, a program manager who joined the club shortly after starting at Northrop Grumman seven years ago. “I’ve been able to meet so many different people through the club, so now it is a regular, uplifting event to run into someone on campus and say hello.”

As Michael points out, club participants leverage their shared interest in hockey to network with company colleagues throughout Rolling Meadows’ vast, 1 million square-foot facility whom they might not know through regular work routines. Hockey opens the door to a greater internal network of contacts.

“Northrop Grumman is a very large company and the ice hockey club has a great way of making it feel a little bit smaller,” said Jake L., an electronics engineer specializing in testing radio-frequency level electronic circuits. Jake L., the hockey club’s acting president, recognizes that hockey serves as a proverbial magnet bringing people together.

“Our regular skaters are made up of program managers, functional managers, engineers, electronic assembly technicians, trade compliance personnel, retirees and others,” he said. “I wouldn’t have had the chance to know so many across a wide variety of company functions if it weren’t for the club.”

Hockey Through the Decades

The club dates back to the 1980s when Rolling Meadows employees played for the “Northrop Jammers” and even competed against other company hockey teams. With a dwindling player pool, the Jammers stopped skating for a while until local employees who wanted hockey back succeeded around 2005.

“I got the wheels in motion to restart the club,” said Jake K., a 17-year company veteran who serves as a staff engineer for embedded software. “I enlisted a few colleagues who had hockey players in their families and I agreed to be club treasurer.”

Navigating the club through the COVID-19 pandemic proved challenging, but play continued with precautions. “We delayed our fall 2021 season until the rink allowed us to skate again,” he said. “We had to enter in one door and exit another, and wear masks until we were on the ice.”

Principal Engineer Kim always had an interest in ice hockey and recently took up the sport. While sometimes she’s the only woman participating, Kim said the same inclusive atmosphere that she experiences in the office carries over to the hockey club.

“It has been great to have the same welcoming culture with the Northrop Grumman Hockey Club,” Kim said. “There is a comfort level knowing that the team members and opponents in our games are all my coworkers.”

woman in blue clean suit

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