MEET MELISSA NGUYEN!
Tell us about yourself!
I live in Omaha, Nebraska and work as a Registered Nurse. A little over two years ago, I was driving home with my son after his hockey game and he looked at me and said, “You know, mom…. you can’t tell me how to play hockey if you don’t even know how to play it”. As much as I didn’t want to agree with him, he was right. I didn’t even know how to skate, so how could I be yelling from the stands or telling him what he should be doing? So the next week I signed up for ‘Learn to Skate’ class with a group of five year olds. I eventually moved up to Adult Learn How to Play Hockey and with nothing but fear in my soul, signed up to play in a local hockey league.
After about six months, I decided I wanted to try being a goalie. I was able to piece together enough gear from my hockey friends and I immediately fell in love with it. A short two weeks after I started playing goalie, I played in my first tournament. That got me hooked. I played hockey as much as I could (and still do). I’ve played anywhere from novice leagues, to helping the local high schoolers during practice when their goalies were out sick, to getting completely lit up by people who played D1 hockey. I’ve gotten to a point where I play hockey more than my son does!
What made you want to be a WHL Brand Ambassador?
Hockey has a female presence, but it is still thought to be primarily a “men’s sport”, especially for people my age. I was 42 years old when I started playing goalie and once I started playing more and more, other women wanted to join me. I started to get messages and comments from moms and dads that their daughters now want to play hockey because ‘if a mom can do it so can they’. I would have given anything to have the opportunity to play hockey when I was younger. The bond you build with your fellow hockey players, especially women, has been indescribable. I just wish someone would have reached out to me sooner—and I want to be that person for others!
What are you most looking forward to as a #WHLAMBASSADOR?
I want to see more women my age face their fears and just give hockey a try. I was terrified when I started and now, I can’t stop talking about it. Not only did I find something I love to do, but I lost 50 pounds doing it, I got off my blood pressure and depression medication and gained a confidence I never had. Shortly after my journey started, I began a group called, ‘Operation Hockey Mom’, where we had volunteer coaches who taught fundamentals to a women’s only group. The group has been going now for over two years and has been a starting point for women who want to learn to play hockey in a non-intimidating environment.
What’s something not a lot of people know about you?
I played classical piano competitively until I finished college.
If you could sit down and have dinner with one female hockey player, who would it be and why?
Maddie Rooney! She was one of the reasons I wanted to try and keep playing goalie. I watched the Olympics and was immediately drawn to her and her style.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in hockey or in life?
You’re never too old to learn how to play hockey. I tried to talk myself out of it many times before I started, but time and time again there were people older than me who said otherwise. Life is too short to keep telling yourself you can’t do something. Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.
What’s your dream for women’s hockey?
We have a long way to go, but women’s hockey players are becoming more and more relevant. Aside from wanting more exposure for women’s hockey, I would love to see barriers being crossed for female trainers and coaches for the NHL. Rachel Balkovec crossed many barriers in Major League Baseball to become the first woman batting coach for the New York Yankees. There are so many opportunities for women to make their mark in hockey and even though I do not have a daughter, I will be one of the biggest cheerleaders out there for the young ladies who pave the way!