Girls can play hockey too.

I am a tomboy. As a girl, I always ran with the boys. Whatever they were doing, I wanted to do it too, especially if they told me I couldn’t (which they often did).

When I was 12, I asked for an Easton street hockey stick for Christmas. Street hockey was all the rage in my neighborhood and I was determined to join the boys’ little “league”. When I got the stick, I was so excited that I didn’t care that it was the Wal-Mart knock-off version. If I’m going to compete among the boys in street hockey, I had to start somewhere.

I roller-bladed to the street hockey cul-de-sac on the day after Christmas with my hockey stick in tow. I was ready to show them what I was made of. They made fun of my stick because it was “cheap” and “for girls” and consequently, so were my roller blades. I’m not sure how my blue Wal-Mart hockey stick was “for girls” but it didn’t matter, their comments only fueled my desire to prove myself.

Neither team wanted me.

These were my friends. The boys I ran around with. We played kickball. We played foursquare. We went to the drive-in with our families and ate brats on the curbs in front of our houses. It didn’t matter, street hockey was like Fight Club for 12-year-olds and the first rule of Neighborhood Street Hockey was that “Girls were only invited to watch, enamored.”

I begged to play. I demanded. It wasn’t until a kid had to go home, that they let me play (because the teams were now uneven). I was thrilled.

After enduring a hockey lesson from each of the boys, we finally started playing. No one passed to me. No one tried to steal the puck from me. It was like I was just skating back and forth for exercise (which is pretty good exercise if you think about it). I was getting frustrated. I decided I’d just steal the puck (which was extremely difficult with cheap Wal-Mart wheels that barely rolled. It was like gliding on the pavement with ski boots on, you know the ones you put on that attach to your skis? That’s what it was like.).

Breathless but determined; I finally stole the elusive puck from a slower kid. My team was in awe that I actually did something athletic and it had nothing to do with tumbling. The other team said I’d cheated. I didn’t care; I stole that puck fair and square. It’s not my fault the boy fell back and was crying, and maybe broke his ankle.

I like to think that my team was impressed by my courage and skill, but looking back now, I’m guessing they were just relieved I wasn’t being a “total girl”.

It got easier to join the “league” after that. The boys still fought over which team had to have “the girl.” (I have a name, you know). And I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the best player out there but I definitely wasn’t the worst… and they knew it.

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