Tell us about yourself!
My name is Lisa Labovitch. In my non-hockey life I work as a librarian, and my after hours are spent playing a lot of beer league hockey with a sprinkle of women’s tournaments. I started skating and playing hockey with my dad and brother on outdoor ice just outside of Chicago. From there I went into a house league at the age of five and started playing travel around seven. This was back in the mid-1980s, so I didn’t see many girls playing organized hockey.
Growing up playing hockey with the boys was fun, but even at a young age I was aware that my presence may not always have been welcome. I remember being made to change on the floor of the public bathroom while my teammates got to bond in the locker room. One well-intentioned mother once tried to cheer me up by telling me Cammi Granato used to change in the exact same spot. In hindsight it’s a bit sad that nothing had improved in the time that had passed between our stints in youth hockey.
I finally found a girls’ team to skate with in 7th grade, and it went on to become Team Illinois. At that time we had to go to neighbouring states to find female competition that was in our own age bracket. When not traveling we would play local women’s teams. In later years it was fun talking to some of these women after they had become my own teammates, and being reminded of what a pest I was on the ice.
All this time I continued to play with the boys, first on travel teams, and later for four years with my high school’s varsity team. By my sophomore year my high school started a girls’ team, and I was glad to have a chance to play with them when my other teams’ schedules allowed. I did not wind up playing college hockey, and part of me wishes that I had pursued that a little harder. Instead I got really involved with the local women’s leagues and made a ton of great friends through that.
In 2012 I moved out to the Seattle area—the first thing I did before deciding on the move was research the local hockey scene. To my surprise it was pretty robust. I play on two beer league teams here, and am involved with a network of women skaters who get teams together for tournaments. I also keep in touch with teammates from Chicago, and have done some international tournaments with them. Eventually the organizer of these trips linked up with the Women of Winter organization, who does their own international hockey events. The women’s hockey world is still a relatively small one, and I really enjoy the way that allows us to network and plan.
What made you want to be a WHL Brand Ambassador?
I think that WHL is doing good work showing the many different faces of women’s hockey. I want to be a part of anything that helps normalize and support women in sports. We still have a little way to go before we are seen merely as athletes and not somehow different from the mainstream.
What are you most looking forward to as a #WHLAMBASSADOR?
Forming new friendships through the women’s hockey community. Helping support the efforts of the women who love the sport as much as I do. I’m also really inspired by the young skaters on this site who are already so passionate about sharing their stories and creating the world they want to live in.
What’s something not a lot of people know about you?
I feel like my Patronus should be a greyhound—when I’m not cramming four games in two days at a tournament somewhere, I lead a pretty chill life. I work in a library, spend loads of time in the ceramics studio, lead a women’s crafting group, and am kind of a bookworm.
If you could sit down and have dinner with one female hockey player, who would it be and why?
Cammi Granato. I would really like to hear about her experiences growing up essentially where I grew up. How were our experiences the same? How were they different? I would love to know what it was like being one of the few high-profile women’s hockey players of her time. I’d love to hear what she thinks about the current state of women’s hockey, and where she thinks it’s all going.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in hockey or in life?
My dad always told me that no matter where you go, hockey people are always going to treat you like one of their own. That’s been pretty true in my own experience. I think there is still some work to be done to make sure that our entire hockey family is 100% open and accepting to skaters of all backgrounds and orientations, but I think that the community is working towards that.
What’s your dream for women’s hockey?
I want players at all ages and abilities to feel that they are empowered and supported to play the game to the best of their abilities. Whether that’s a young skater putting on the skates for the first time, a top-level athlete going pro and being able to make a living, a sledge hockey player wanting a league in her city, or a beer leaguer who just wants regular ice at a reasonable time at a level she feels comfortable playing—growing the game needs to include everyone.
Interested in becoming a #WHLAmbassador?