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  • I was eleven in 1971 and a serious tomboy as well as a budding artist. In my diary I wrote that I wanted to become the first woman in the National Hockey League. I practiced shooting the puck in the basement with my older brothers. We hit slap shots against an old mattress against the wall, but when they went out to skirmish with their friends I did not go along.
    We went skating in the Forest Park rink and logged many hours going in circles. I was conspicuous on the ice for being the only girl, at that time, in hockey skates. There was an old man in black figure skates who would twirl around with the girls who wore skirts and little white skates. He ignored me, but I kept an eye on him, I was fascinated by his careful crafted movements of ice dance.

    One day an announcement poster went up for tryouts for a girl’s ice hockey team. I went and was amazed that there were ten other girls, in hockey skates, willing to do wind sprints up and down the ice and stop suddenly with a twist to the side that sent a spray of shaved ice flying high. We all made the team.
    All of us had older brothers who played for their neighborhood teams, but there were so few of us girls that we came from all over the Saint Louis region.
    Towards the end of the season our coach arranged a game with another team. There were no other girls teams for us to play against. It was decided that we would play against a group of boys, a year younger than us as a handicap.

    Us girls were always dropped off curbside by our rides to the rink and carried our bags of skates and pads in, we chatted while we laced up our skates using a metal hook to get the laces tight and even.
    The boys team arrived at the rink with their parents. Their father’s carried their gear and mothers picked up the slack.
    The game got underway. I played the right wing forward position. Part of the game is to swoop in and take the puck from your opponent, through speed, skill and a clean hip-check. I swooped in and with a flick of my hip sent my opponent into the boards and began to skate off with the puck.
    “Dad,” he said, “Look what she did to me!”
    “That’s the game son,” I was glad to hear that answer.
    But there were hard feelings. When I went in toward another boy he went on the defensive and raised his stick end up at me. In hockey this move is called high sticking, it is a penalty maneuver and poor sportsmanship. His stick met my moving body and caught me in the mouth, knocked me down and split my lip open. I was stunned and could not stand so I crawled to the side trailing blood. Then my teammates were there, holding me up and walked me to the benches.
    “I’ll get him for you!” my friend Sue told me. I did not see her move that sent one of our opponents off to get six stitches. Sue sat out the rest of the game for slashing, also a penalty move, that is exactly what it sounds like- slicing your opponent with your stick.
    I did hear the rink manager say - I thought - with pride, “Those girls are a bunch of wild Amazons!”
    That was our first and last game.
    The season ended as it began, with us girls doing wind sprints up and down the ice until we were close to puking. We had skirmishes amongst ourselves, barely enough of us to cover our positions. But we were always civil, even the mean girls who came in from Kirkwood played clean and fair.
    That was our first and last season as a team. We moved on and the world moved on. This morning I read an article about the nutritionist for the woman’s ice hockey team at the Russian Olympics.
    We are woman now, not girls anymore.
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