I grew up in Vermont playing pond hockey. We shoveled snow in straight lines to clear the ice. The dogs, Seamus and Mr. McGregor would happily retrieve the puck from snowbanks that formed the edges of the rink - temporary until the next snow.
In college I was a hockey walk-on in skates two sizes too big – something that doesn’t happen anymore, thanks to Title 9. The team I skated with in Minnesota was pretty rough. That was the only time I saw hair pulled in the locker room.
I moved on to play for the Harvard Business School, a mostly preppy bunch who rented a nice bus to a well-sponsored tournament in Montreal, and I played for a team in Washington sponsored by a major brewer.
Then I gave up skating until I moved back to Vermont in my 30s and played in Stowe’s late night co-ed league. The old rink was open to the elements. We’d freeze on the ice - then again at midnight as we stood around the parking lot, drinking beer.
I’ve played for teams called the Evolution, the Wicked and the Vixen. Our last tournament team was the Stanley Cupcakes.
Vermont women’s hockey is a wonderfully democratic mix. Some of us have skated for years; others took up the sport after watching their children have fun on the ice. The age gap on a team can span forty years, the skill level can range from beginner to genius, and we’re all on the ice for different reasons. Some players want to get better, some want to have fun, and some really want to win.
Just sitting on the bench with twelve women can get complicated - so maybe that’s why, two years ago, I became a goalie – where I’m learning even more about human nature.
If some fast, aggressive skater keeps firing and doesn’t score, she just moves faster and shoots harder. If I’m melting down and the puck keeps hitting the back of the net, even less experienced players work harder – as if they sense blood in the water - or at least on the ice.
What I didn’t expect is that I’ve rediscovered the joy of hockey and the surprise of learning. Tightening those goalie skates takes me back to trying to tie frozen figure skate laces with damp woolen mittens while watching the sun glint off the icy pond - hoping my brother and his friends will let me in the game.