As there was no shortage of star power among the Boston Pride competitors that participated at the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game, there was a unique blend of established hockey heroes and promising young stars that only add to the exciting future ahead. Among such young stars was Amanda Pelkey, the first player from the state of Vermont to sign a contact at the NWHL level.
Such sensational firsts would continue at the All-Star Game where she became the first player from Vermont to compete in the inaugural event. While the transition to professional hockey as introduced Pelkey to a much larger world, it is one where the growing reality consists of a future where the game equally belongs to both women and men.
Still under the age of 25, Pelkey has quietly assembled an impressive career that has established her as the greatest player from the Green Mountain State. Of note, her acquisition has paid positive dividends for the Pride, as Pelkey was one of six skaters to log double digits in points. Among a new generation of competitors with the US national team, Pelkey’s presence means that all six New England states can now boast of at least one player that has donned the US jersey.
Having grown up in Montpelier, the state capital, Pelkey logged over 100 career points with the University of Vermont Catamounts, graduating as the program’s all-time leading scorer. Pelkey first made her mark with the North American Hockey Academy, formerly based in Stowe, Vermont, as the squad went 25-1-1 in her final season, capturing the JWHL Cup.
Considering that Pelkey has also served as a USA Hockey ambassador at the IIHF High Performance Women’s Camp in Slovakia several years ago, the role of ambassador is one that suits her well. As the most famous women’s hockey player from Vermont, she has become more than just a role model, setting a golden standard for younger players to aspire to; she is the face of women’s hockey in her home state.
“I am honored that I came from such a supportive state. Ever since I was playing youth hockey all the way through my career at UVM, the state of Vermont has supported me every step of the way. The hockey family in Vermont is a very tight community. The game continues to grow back at home and it feels great to know that young girls now have the opportunity to dream about playing professionally and have it come true.”
Selected 19th overall by captain Hilary Knight in the NWHL All-Star Fantasy Draft, she was one of five Pride players on Knight’s roster. Joining them on said roster were the likes of Knight, Kacey Bellamy, Alyssa Gagliardi and Jordan Smelker, the first player from Alaska to score a goal in the NWHL.
As each All-Star roster consisted of at least one player from each of the league’s teams, it allowed Pelkey the rare occasion to become teammates with rivals, yet respected players. Among them were the likes of Janine Weber from the New York Riveters, the first player ever signed to an NWHL contract. In addition, Pelkey had the chance to skate with Kaleigh Fratkin. One of the leading scorers on the Connecticut Whale, Fratkin became the first Canadian to play in both the Women’s Winter Classic and the NWHL All-Star Game.
Along with familiar faces Pelkey has played with on the US national team, including Brianne McLaughlin of the Beauts and the Whale’s Kelli Stack, skating for Team Knight resulted in a playing environment that was unique and enjoyable, providing a special amalgam that saw all participating players proud to contribute to history. For Pelkey, the chance to know so many of these remarkable talents as not just highly conditioned athletes, but as strong, confident women was one that was mutually satisfying for all.
“It was a great environment. Everyone enjoyed themselves all weekend and it was great to get to know some of the girls from other teams. Since we play each other multiple times throughout the year we get to know them as players but not on a personal level. Everyone seemed to soak every moment in from the weekend and have a blast with it.”
Accumulating a lifetime of memories during a memorable All-Star weekend, Pelkey found great enjoyment in the pregame All-Star Skills competition, which served as the welcome towards the greatness to follow, one that was rightfully theirs. Although the Game itself represented a landmark moment and a cherished career milestone for Pelkey, the Competition presented its own equally gratifying elements.
“I would say (I will remember most) the skills competition. As soon as we took the ice it really hit me that this league has come far in terms of becoming a reality for all of us players. We all grew up watching the skills competition for the NHL and it was great to have the opportunity to entertain our fans.”
During Pelkey’s inaugural season with the Pride, an aspect that has enriched to be part of the first professional women’s ice hockey league is the outstanding support of her parents. The fact that both made the trip to watch their daughter make history at Buffalo’s Harbor Center, site of the All-Star Game, only added to the feelings of elation and accomplishment. Exceptionally proud of her roots, the fact that the Vermont hockey community reciprocated on February 14, which was also the Pride’s fundraiser for Denna Laing, only added to a memorable season for Pelkey,
“My parents are able to make every game which I am very grateful for. There is usually some extended family at my home games. It’s always nice to come up after the game and say hello and thank them for coming and supporting me. At our home game on February 14th, various Vermont hockey organizations are coming to support us. I am hoping that they will help fill the stands!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from Twitter