More and more women are making their way to the rec hockey leagues. Look out—they can really play!
By Roberta Mulder
My nursery school report card said only that I was very… brave (groping, probably desperately, for a positive adjective; after all, my parents were paying tuition). But the truth was I was big and strong, aggressive and bossy. There is a picture of me standing, victoriously, on top of the monkey bars—a gigantic metallic contraption at least a story high, something that would be absolutely illegal in this era of car seats and bike helmets. I was three years old. Brave. Strong. Remarkably coordinated. Obviously a potential hockey player.
In elementary school, my favorite subject was gym. Academic stuff was easy and boring; the real thrill came from winning. Like most gym classes of that era, we had to wear gym uniforms and ours were yellow bloomers. One piece, short sleeved, snaps down the front. The cool girls—the ones who had purses and were allowed to wear knee socks and patent-leather shoes even in winter—rolled up the bloomer part so it was shorter and not as puffy looking. Me? I wore itchy woolen tights and practical shoes all winter long. I left the bloomers as is. But I beat the crap out of them at every game and activity we played. And beat the boys too. At everything. Always. Obviously a potential hockey player.
Junior high offered better gym suits and real sports. The gym teacher liked me: I was the only one who really tried. No matter what we did, I always got to pick the teams, and she chose me as president of the Leaders Club and the only recipient of the Presidential Physical Fitness award (signed by Richard Nixon himself!). Thank goodness for the gym teacher because, curiously, no one else liked me. Particularly since I added fighting to my athletic repertoire. Obviously a potential hockey player.
In high school, I channeled my enthusiasms elsewhere …. primarily, um, to mischief. I also had after-school jobs throughout those years—my brand of mischief was expensive—thus making sports participation impossible. So except for the speed with which I ran away from the cops, one would therefore never have predicted my hockey future. Somehow, though, I managed to ace a few key tests, thus getting into an engineering school. And that’s where my story really begins.
Leveling the Field
See, it turned out that I arrived at college at the perfect time. Despite its 10-to-1 male/female ratio, my school offered an equal number of sports to women as to men. And nearly every women’s sport was walk-on. Oh. My. God. I tried lacrosse, softball, indoor soccer, racquetball, floor hockey, field hockey, and… ice hockey. My niche! I found my niche! The only sport where it doesn’t matter that you’re short! And no one’s really sure if you’re fat or if it’s the equipment! And apparently my brawling childhood was the perfect raw material, because at the time, we played full checking. Hockey and calculus (sigh)… what more could a person ask for? Possibly the best four years of my life.
The next decade, as far as hockey was concerned, was a bit of a drought. Graduation had yielded a great job, but in a hockey desert. In desperation, I took up refereeing youth hockey. One day, at the conclusion of yet another Hey-Ref-You-Suck! game, a mom from the visiting team approached me. Anticipating a scene, I avoided eye contact and doggedly headed straight toward the ref’s changing room. But it was good news, though: She suggested that I might be interested in playing hockey. The practice slot following her son’s was comprised entirely of women hockey players. Maybe I should check it out? And I did.
Five Nights a Week
Twenty-five years later, I’m still skating with the Westchester Wildcats women hockey players team. And over the years, as more rinks sprouted up locally, there were adult leagues to join—each of which became co-ed when I signed up. Although well into my 50s now, I play hockey five nights a week and couldn’t be happier. And yet, incredibly, there are people in the world who don’t realize that hockey is actually the best sport in existence. Nice, brisk air! You go really fast! You crash into people! Passing, receiving a pass, setting up a goal, shooting, scoring… winning… and spending a few hours each week with people who enjoy the game just as much as I do.
Hey! Delay of game! Stop reading and drop that puck!
Roberta Mulder divides her time between teaching college mathematics and playing hockey. She prefers playing right wing because, as she says, “A woman is always right!”
Attention, ladies: If you live to play hockey, tell us your story!