Meet Maggie Benson!
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Maggie Benson. I was born and raised in the Rochester, New York area. I’ve been skating since my feet were big enough to fit into a pair of skates (Bauer Lil Angels) and watching hockey for just as long (go Sabres!). I started out playing in the streets with the neighbour boys when I was six, but I didn’t begin playing officially until I was eight years old.
When I first began playing, there was a very limited number of girls’ programs in my area, so I played primarily with the boys and served as an alternate for the local girls’ teams. To put things into perspective, at nine years old, I was an alternate on a girls’ 14U team and at twelve, I was playing 16-and-under in addition to my Peewee team. Fortunately, there was a relatively successful girls’ club in my area and at 13 years old, I began playing for the Rochester Edge where I played out the remainder of my youth hockey, competing across the US and Canada.
I also played for my high school’s boys team on-and-off. With the Edge, I won the U16 Tier II New York State Championship in 2011 and the Women’s Senior B NYS Championship in 2017. My teams appeared at the USA Hockey National Championships both years, earning bronze in 2017. I was also given the opportunity to serve as an assistant coach for various U12 and U14 teams within the organisation from 2012-2017, most recently with the 2017 U14 NYS Championship team which made me the first member of the Rochester Edge to both coach and play in the USA Hockey National Championships for the club.
Just before the start of the 2017-18 season, I relocated to Edinburgh, Scotland to pursue a postgraduate degree. At first, I thought my hockey career would have to be placed on pause, but I did some research and discovered that the University of Edinburgh did have a team, the Eagles, and I was eligible to try out for it.
Again, I found myself playing on a men’s team. There was another girl on the team, and she was able to pass along some information about playing competitive women’s hockey in the UK, but the nearest team was nearly 300 miles away. Wanting to be able to dedicate sufficient time to my studies, I opted to play for the university team. At the time, there was talk of a women’s university team forming, but the chances seemed steep given the low population of experienced female ice hockey players in the area. Fortunately, our head coach, Rambo, was just crazy enough to take on the task and the Caledonia Steel Queens were born.
Although I was sidelined by a major injury from November to April, I was able to suit up with the team for their first appearance at the British Universities Ice Hockey Association (BUIHA) Women’s Nationals tournament in May 2018. Despite our roster consisting largely of rookies, including a goalie with less than four months of experience, we just narrowly lost in the finals. I had a great time with the girls and was excited that I would have the opportunity to play a full season with them while undertaking a second master’s degree in 2018-19.
This past season has been one of my craziest to date. In addition to playing for the Eagles and the Steel Queens, I joined my teammate on both squads, Beth Scoon, on the Kingston Diamonds Elite team. That meant I was on the ice at least three times a week, sometimes with 2-3 games in a weekend. Playing for the Diamonds meant a 4.5-hour drive each way for home games and at least six hours for away games. The season was largely successful with the Eagles winning the BUIHA Division I national title for the first time in the club’s 16-year history and the Steel Queens winning the BUIHA Women’s National Championship to conclude our first full season. The Steel Queens also brought several rookies into the fold. I also had the privilege of serving as an assistant captain and winning the Hopkins Shield with the BUIHA International All-Stars team in an exhibition match against Team Great Britain Universities. Alongside Beth Scoon, I served as a player-coach for the Steel Queens and got to help develop our new players. The team has come a long way in such a short amount of time, but it has shown me that the development of women’s ice hockey in the UK still has a long way to go in comparison to the US and Canada.
What made you want to be a WHL Brand Ambassador?
I’m very passionate about growing the girls’ game. Ice hockey has been such a large part of my life and I’d like to do whatever I can to promote the game in areas with smaller hockey populations.
What are you most looking forward to as a #WHLAMBASSADOR?
I’m looking forward to furthering my involvement in the women’s hockey community.
What’s something not a lot of people know about you?
As an expat, I’ve been doing my best to travel and explore various European cities while I can. One of my favourite things to do during my travels is to play restaurant roulette. Basically, I’ll glance at a restaurant’s menu to make sure that it suits my budget and that it contains local cuisine but that’s it. I’ve discovered several great dishes this way!
If you could sit down and have dinner with one female hockey player, who would it be and why?
This is a tough one! There are so many accomplished players that come to mind. It’d be cool to pick Hilary Knight or Kendall Coyne-Schofield’s brain, but I’d be perfectly happy to sit down to a meal with any of my teammates. They’re great craic!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in hockey or in life?
One of the best coaches I’ve ever played for once said to me, “You won’t get what you don’t ask for.” I’ve carried that piece of advice with me for many years now and it’s really helped me get to where I am now, both in hockey and in life.
What’s your dream for women’s hockey?
I would love to see women’s hockey become as commonplace as men’s hockey worldwide. It’d be great to see a sustainable professional league develop, but I’d also like to see the female hockey population continue to grow.
Interested in becoming a #WHLAmbassador?