Hockey moms are getting out of the stands and onto the ice. Is it making them better spectators in the process?

Carter Brown took a break from zipping his Matchbox cars along the bleachers at the Chiller North ice rink. "It's very cool," the 5-year-old said, looking out at the ice where a dozen players and their coach were chasing pucks. "I think that she's going to grow up to be a hockey player," he said.

Carter was talking about his mom, Sadie, otherwise known as "No. 4" out on the ice. The 36-year-old schoolteacher from Powell is part of a group of women, many of them moms like her, who get together every Friday morning to hone their hockey-playing skills.

"We get them to the skill level where they can join the adult league," explained Rob Schriner, assistant general manager for the Chiller's five Columbus-area ice rinks. While the most obvious benefit might be greater fitness for these women, another benefit has been emerging over the 10-plus years these women-only sessions have been going on.

"I think it does make for a better hockey parent," Schriner said. "They realize how tough it is for the players and for the referees."

Sadie Brown is just embarking on the spectator hockey mom phase of her life. Her husband Kurt played for Ohio State in the early 1990s, but Carter has started playing the game now. And their 2-year-old daughter Anneke will begin skating lessons soon. But Brown said that learning how to play the game herself gives her valuable insights into what it's really like.

"Although there are times when it's frustrating because I'll be like, 'Oh, you can get that, I know you can,' " Brown said grinning, as she toweled off after the hour-long practice. Her kids had bounded down from the bleachers and were circling her in anticipation of the promised trip to McDonald's.

Terri Robison had three sons playing the game before she decided to take the plunge six years ago. Now she's hooked.

"I play three times a week at least on two teams," said the Columbus resident who, when she's not playing goalie, works as a respiratory therapist at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

"I definitely understand now how things get screwed up," Robison said about how playing has improved her spectator skills. "I can sympathize and I don't yell at the refs."

Robison's middle son Morgan also is a goalie. The 14-year-old said he enjoys having a hockey mom like Terri. She started playing when he was a third-grader, Morgan said, because "she wanted to be like everyone else in the family." His dad, Michael, plays goalie and forward positions, while his older brother Gage, 16, is a goalie and 12-year-old Evan is a budding defenseman.

Sometimes, Morgan said, Terri playing the game is "like having another coach, but I think it's pretty good. She'll notice things on the ice that I might not notice."

As for kid coaching mom, Morgan said Terri's gotten far enough with her game that she doesn't need much constructive criticism from her kids. And he's proud of her.

"My friends were kind of shocked at first," Morgan said of the time when his peers first started to realize the entire Robison family plays hockey. "But now they think it's pretty cool."