My Hockey Story

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I looked at my jersey in my locker stall, and it made everything seem so much more surreal; this was my first game playing Pro hockey. I was the first girl to play a regular season game in the NHL. I think back to when I first confronted Coach Bylsma and Ray Shero about playing on their team.
It was a rainy September day in Pittsburgh, and I had requested a meeting with them. Nerves had started to overcome me, but then I thought about why I was there; I wanted to play hockey. Hockey was easier than breathing to me, and I never really had to think about it. I started to explain my situation and why I thought I should play for them. I showed them a short highlight reel of a high school game I was in where I scored 9 goals, winning the game for my team. I suppose I made a convincing case because they agreed to let me try out for the team at training camp. There was one condition however, I had to be able to get through two practices without the team finding out I was a girl. This was harder than anyone would have guessed. The hockey part was easy; I don’t have to think about it because my brain does it all on its own. I knew the practices would be hard, but they had never seen me play. When I’m on top of my game, I’m unstoppable. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the two practices were over. I could finally tell my teammates who I actually was.
I walked into the locker room with my favorite converse sneakers, jeans, Pens t-shirt, and with my hair in a ponytail. The team all kind of looked confused. When I started to get my hockey gear on, one of the guys finally asked who I was. “I’m Kris, I’ve been practicing with you for the last two days. Coach said if I could get through two practices and not have you notice I was a girl, I could stay.” Just then Coach walked in. They all looked at him trying to determine if I was crazy, telling the truth, or both. Coach backed up my story, and we got on with practice.
Once training camp was over and they announced the roster, I was relieved to find out that I had made the team. I got to play with the best hockey players in the world; I got to play with my idols. In my first game, they had me centering the third line with Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis. We aren’t really supposed to be a scoring line, but with me there wasn’t really a chance of that not happening. On my first shift, I scored on my first shot, a truly remarkable shot, weaving through the defenders then going five-hole on Jimmy Howard. Minutes later I scored my second goal of the night; then with seven seconds left in the period I got my first hat trick. By the end of the game, which we won at 9-0, I had six goals, two hat tricks, nine points and had played for about 25 minutes!
Naturally I don’t want to draw attention to myself, or the fact that I am a girl playing in the NHL; that would just make my life a lot harder. See, my team knows that I’m a girl but the rest of the league doesn’t. It’s not that we’re hiding it; we are just purposely not saying it. Girls are allowed to be in the NHL, of course, but the way I look at it is the following: if the guys knew, they would either go harder on me trying to prove that girls don’t belong, or they would back off, afraid of hitting a girl. Neither are very good options. Just not saying anything works well; most people see what they want to see. Even if I made it obvious most people still wouldn’t notice because they want to stay oblivious.
Over the next couple games I got at least one goal in each of them. I try to just play smart hockey: stick to my game and only break away if needed. Sometimes its nice to just show off, especially against a really good team. I had five hat tricks in ten games. All the hockey announcers were abuzz because we had yet to lose a game. We are in the midst of a truly remarkable season.
I can score well and produce points, but that isn’t all that I can do. I can also pass, skate, and defend. It seems like if you’re a scorer then you aren’t as good at defending, but with me that’s not the case. Naturally I’m better at scoring and offensive moves like that; however, with a little work my defense isn’t too shabby either. I wouldn’t be able to make it as a defender in the NHL, but in a minor league it might be a possibility. For some games, like the game tonight versus the Flyers, I have to play a more defensive game, and I’m fine with that. Scoring is fun but sometimes the goal isn’t to win, sometimes you just have to not lose.
When we go up against incredibly talented teams, such as the Flyers, I finally understand what all of this hockey madness is about. It’s about the adrenaline pumping, your heart racing, being tired out of your wits, but shift after shift coming back and trying your hardest, leaving all you have out on the ice. It’s about loving what you do, even the hard parts, and celebrating with the ones closest to you during the good. You have to come right back after a tough loss, and not lose focus after big wins.
Hockey isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle, but it’s my lifestyle and I love every minute of it. Sometimes I wonder if all of this hockey madness is worth it, but when I get on the ice I forget. The roar of the crowd revives me; they cheer no matter what, every shot, every check, every shift. I love hockey and I wouldn’t have it any other way.





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