When I was younger, one thing I remember the most was watching my older brother play the sport called hockey. We would spend our weekends at ice rinks that were colder than some of the most frigid winter nights, and sometimes even in hotels that would hold the entire team and their families. At the young age of four years old, I told my parents I wanted to be just like him. The thing that most people don’t realize, when it comes to the infamous sport is the passion and determination it takes to be successful. After being in the sport for almost ten years now, I can say that I have witnessed myself in the lowest of lows and the highest of highs throughout my hockey career. Although I may dread driving 40 minutes every day after school to practice or spending my Saturdays on a four hour bus ride, the feeling I get when my feet hit the ice is indescribable.
Since my school is too small for a girls’ team, began playing hockey with the boys. I started on the first level that they call ‘mites’. I didn’t know anybody but quickly made friends that I still talk to today. I remember every person in my family coming to practice helping me put my gear on. I finally learned to tie my own skates when I got to the ‘squirt’ level. I think that’s when I learned the greatest trait I have now. After some time, I realized that the sooner I undressed myself, the sooner I would be on my way home for dinner. This has continued all the way through my hockey career. I remember my teammates’ parents always making comments such as, “Wow! What did you tell Ally to get her to get out of the locker room that quickly?!” I continued playing with the boys all the way through my freshman year. The year before, was the first time I had learned the most exciting part to almost every hockey player’s opinion: checking. Although I was one of two girls on the team at the time, the boys were very welcoming in helping me adjust to the checking world. I did my best to learn and adapt to hitting boys much larger and stronger than I was, but I can confidentially say I gave it my all. I didn’t realize that would be the last time I played with the kids that I started hockey with.
After much decision with my parents and teammate, Mackenzie, I decided to play my sophomore year with a different girls’ team. It was quite a dramatic change for me. Mackenzie had played on numerous girls teams before so she knew what the atmosphere and change would be like. It was hard for me in the beginning because I had played with the boys from the time I was four years old. It was all I had known, and to think I would have to meet new people, intimidated me. I had attended summer camps where I became familiar with most of my teammates. I knew this was a good change and it was going to give me great success in my hockey career.
The season went very well. I was actually able to make new friends with a lot of the girls and even gained confidence I didn’t know I had. I went from playing, little, to playing on the first line. I appreciate my parents and sister so much for supporting me in making this change to the team. My family has watched almost all of my hockey games growing up and continue to do so now. They had to go through sitting in tundra cold ice rinks for almost 13 years and still are going strong. They’ve also had to deal with the reeking hockey smell of equipment and the constant hockey talk on the car rides home. We ended our season in the first round of playoffs. We were seeded fifth and had to play Hayward who were seeded third. We played them the week before and lost 1-6. We ended up sticking it out and went into double overtime, and lost 1-0. The game sadly didn’t turn out how we wanted it to, but I think it was the best game I had played all season. For it being my first year playing on an all-girls team went exceptionally well. I had my doubts and worries, but there was nothing to worry about. There was little drama, lots of laughs, and a numerous amount of hard work put forth by my team.
Whether it’s washing my sweat infested hockey gear or picking me up after practice, I appreciate my mom the most for her dedication to me playing hockey. She took the role of driving Mackenzie and I to practice every day after school. It also took a lot for her to make that happen, and to be committed to ensuring we had a ride. I must say I’m proud that I carried down my parent’s passion for the sport. When I eventually have kids, I want them to have the same passion that I do for sports. I’m glad that my parents threw me into a sport that I had no idea of how to play, and now I can’t go 2 weeks without wanting to play hockey again. They give me the advice I need when I have questions or concerns. My parents also have to get new equipment every other year if needed, and they also have had to pay a lot of money, so I can play the sport that I love. They let me complain when I have had a bad game or when I have to wake up early for a Saturday game. My family is the support I need to continue to play this game I love. When I see them in the stands cheering for me, it only makes me play harder.
Hockey also creates a family within your teammates. It’s nice having people who support you and push you to your absolute limit. Whether it’s when you’re working out together, and you just can’t finish that set; or if you are not having your best game, they’re always there to give you support and push you. I think hockey has made me into a strong person; physically and mentally. The dedication that it takes not only on the ice, but off the ice is a great example. I don’t know if most people know this, but many hockey teams practice off the ice and this is called “dryland”. This is where we do all of our off ice training. We will also do quite a bit of yoga, yoga is my favorite dry land to do. It calms me down and simply relaxes me. It's especially fun when my assistant coach does the yoga with us. Another aspect that takes a lot of dedication and hard work is having the appropriate diet during the season. I was always ensuring that I was eating the proper carbs the nights before games to ensure my strength for the game the next day. I also always made sure that I ate a healthy breakfast every morning because my days were long during the season. In any sport, not only hockey, it’s key to leave all your problems off the field, ice, or floor. Although it was hard for me sometimes to do so, I knew I would skate a lot better without the outside problems on the ice.
Playing any sport; every athlete needs to give it their all. The demands of a sport can be a bit much for some people. Being able to say I’ve been a part of this sport since the time I was three reminds me that I know what it takes. The longest shift being forty-five seconds skating back and forth to each red line equaling a total of one hundred and eighty-five feet can seem like a lot. I’ve learned to condition not only my body, but my brain as well. I keep my head up and my thoughts positive because once I start to get down on myself or think negatively, it’s game over for me. I’ve also learned to push through the pain because the outcome will be greater than the journey.
Through thick and thin, I will say hockey has been my greatest accomplishment in my life so far. Although sometimes I may say that I want to quit and give up, I still show up and give it my all. Whether it’s running half miles in summer camps or blocking shots from other players, I still push through so I can become the best that I can be. I’m excited to see where the next two years of high school hockey takes me and what my future has in store. I will continue to accept and appreciate the tremendous support from my family, friends, and teammates. I will also continue to work towards my dream of one day playing some time in collegiate level hockey.