Women Take The Ice In A Hockey League Of Their Own

By John M. Glionna
Los Angeles Times.

EDINA, Minn.

Rink rat Judy VanVoorhis recalled the first time she saw female fists fly on the ice.

The bad blood started with a shove, maybe a sharp elbow to the chin.

Then, as quick as a wrist shot, the gloves came off.

“They swung their sticks — gosh, it was ugly,” said the 48-year-old retired Army lieutenant colonel and mother of three. “I never heard language like that, even in the Army.”

In the recreational program Chicks with Sticks, the women play hockey for keeps.

While fisticuffs are rare, games are fast-paced, sweaty, noisy and often roughhouse.

In Minnesota, hockey is king, and many children learn to skate not long after they can walk.

But hockey is queen here as well.

In recent years, girls and women of all ages have taken to the sport.

Today, an estimated 2,000 women play in leagues or take part in regular clinics.

Most of these players were already out of high school before girls leagues became part of the curriculum.

For years, many had shuffled the kids to pee-wee and high school games — like soccer moms always on some tyke’s schedule, but with ice.

Then curiosity got the best of them. “What would it be like to lead a scrum along the boards?” they wondered. “To slap a puck past a goalie?”

If that wasn’t inspiration enough, women’s hockey has been an Olympic sport since 1998, and the U.S team barely missed the gold this year, losing to the Canadians in Sochi.

That got some dander up around here in Edina, a Minneapolis suburb.

On the other hand, on the same day as VanVoorhis’ team had a practice, the University of Minnesota women’s hockey team met with President Obama after winning last year’s Division 1 national championship.

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