Lead coach: Line up, line up.
Everyone lined up against the wall in the rink in full gear from a skirmish on the ice. I cut my blades into the frozen water and kicked up some ice chips on my team mate next to me. He laughed and punched me in the shoulder. I just wanted to get out on the ice and check a few bodies into the sides and pass the puck or maybe even score.
LC: We have a couple girls among us
For the first time in my life, I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded ominous.
TM: Who’s the girl?
He asked me. I shrugged, hoping maybe – maybe it wouldn’t be me.
I hung my head in shame. I moved out of the line after being called up and was forced to stand in between my coach and assistant coach. Gasps could be heard from the line.
TMs: That’s a girl, she plays so hard, no way
I locked eyes with my cousin, the only other girl there; she looked down praying I’d not mention her gender. By this time, I was trying to fight back tears, I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t betray my sex with weakness, not now. At this time the figure skating group was starting to take over the ice. The Barbie doll outfits, pink on pink with long well kempt blonde hair and a white wash of skin. They came out like a sickening Pepto-Bismol army, sliding with their egg crates in front, struggling to keep their stance and show off their ballerina skills.
LC: We cannot have girls on our team – girls do not play hockey they figure skate.
He pointed at the incoming pink mass as if I could miss it. I looked back to the line, their black gear and helmets, their sticks and heavy skates. These were warriors that played a game to hone their skills until the time came to use them. The ice dancers, beautiful in their own rights, did not fit into who I am. I am no ice dancer, I have no finesses, I am not a fine instrument, I am a blunt tool, rugged, durable, and powerful. He could see I was visibly distressed, this caused the line to become distressed. Until that moment I was considered to be one of the best of them and many cheered when I was picked for their team. I argued my stance and shocked my coaches with my lack of A) remote desire to join the tutu brigade and B) how I spoke with reason and sense.
They tried to backpedal, claiming it wasn’t their decisions but it was the simple fact that the hockey team used the men’s locker room and the figure skating used the women’s locker room. I offered to change in the women’s locker room and skate out to meet them on the ice. Their logic failed at every turn and finally I was told…
LC: Enough. Girls shouldn’t be playing hockey.
I flipped them the bird, in gloved hands so not sure how much of the middle finger I managed to get up as I skated off. I hated the color pink for almost twenty years after that. I was a little sad as I watched my younger brother excel in hockey to the point of earning a scholarship at UMASS Lowell. I used to wonder – could that have helped me pay for college… as I paid down my student loans.