What happens when a southern belle from Tennessee starts a life in North Pole, Alaska?
It was the Spring of 2012 and I can remember driving from the lower 48 all the way to Alaska. As I approached North Pole all I can remember is the trash that filled the ditches on both sides of the street. It looked like a tornado had been through there. Once I got to my hotel the front desk receptionist told me this was what they called their “break-up” season. Break-up season is when all the snow melts and all the trash that has collected among layers of snow starts to revel itself. She said not to worry, the community comes together to clean it up, and they most certainly do.
After a year of being there and experiencing -50 degree temperatures, I couldn’t shake the seasonal depression for years to come.
A few years later I met a friend who would change my life forever. Her name was Victoria and she was born and raised in Alaska. She was a little spitfire who had the hyper energy I normally had. We became roommates, were always together, and she even introduced me to my husband. We both got married, bought houses, and started adulting!
It was 2015 when she would introduce me to women’s ice hockey in Fairbanks, Alaska. I was having a tough winter that year. I had just had a baby, was missing my family, and it was obvious I needed a hobby. To get out of the house I would go watch her games. Growing up in Tennessee, there was no ice hockey. The NHL’s Nashville Predators didn’t exist when I was growing up. So, after a year of watching, I was hooked—I HAD to play!
In 2016 I signed up for my first season. I would go to the local rink on my lunch break and practice skating, since that is an important skill. I went the extra mile and even signed up for a women’s hockey clinic. My first night at the clinic I would take an awkward fall that would break my greater tuberosity (shoulder).
I was so bummed. I couldn’t play for six weeks, but I still made sure to go cheer on my new team. I remember walking into the locker room for the first time to meet them! It was like walking into a party room; there was music jamming, tons of laughter, and not one person seemed a bit nervous. Once I was able to play, every Sunday was my saving grace. I finally scored my first goal towards the end of my first season and my team would go on to win 1st place.
Ice hockey is one of the hardest sports to play, but it wasn’t just a sport to me, it was my saving grace. Women’s ice hockey changed my life. The sport, the women, the game, the passion, the team… all of these brought me out of the dark.
Once a week wasn’t enough for me, so I would rent a sheet of ice and start an infamous group called FriYay Hockey! I even put together a team (Between Periods) to play at the Labatt’s Adult Classic in Anchorage. After three years of attending the tournament, we would finally claim the championship. We are getting ready for our fourth year and hope to keep the title!
Women’s hockey empowers so many of us. In all of life’s stressful moments, from being a mom, to the struggles at work, once you hit the ice you become unstoppable. Once that puck drops, all your worries go away. The friends you make and the memories you cherish are what make women’s hockey such an amazing sport.
I encourage you to have no fear and become part of a sport that is so much more than that. I have since moved to Knoxville, Tennessee where there is not a women’s league, but I can promise you in a few years, there will be!