Flakes of ice cover the glossy rink as skates glide across the surface. The puck is within reach, only a hockey stick away. Another player makes their way to the puck and, before a moment’s glance, the puck is in the goal. The player cheers and a female voice can be heard. The hockey player wasn’t a boy, as suspected, but a girl.
Junior Caroline Shaw is the only girl on the JV hockey team. Growing up, hockey was her life, so being a girl showed little importance to her.
“My dad’s a coach in the NHL, so growing up, my whole life revolved around hockey,” Shaw said.
Upon joining the team, she faced the same struggles as any new player. Since she came in as a junior, she hadn’t played with anyone yet and was eager to find her place amongst the team.
“Most players find their place during summer league games and captains practices, which she missed due to her volleyball schedule,” Head Hockey Coach Timothy Chugh said. “However, when she was able to join the team, she t right in with everyone else.
Along with being new to the team, being a female hockey player brought along some awkwardness since many male players aren’t accustomed to there being a female on the team.
“There’s also always the odd team who targets you on the ice or makes the sexist comments,” Shaw said. “When we played against Hilliard, one of their players apologized for hitting me after he realized that he hit a girl. But you just have to laugh at those comments and brush them off.”
“At one varsity practice, we were working on some checking drills along the walls and one of our younger players skated up to [Caroline] and bumped her but didn’t really check her,” Chugh said. “I brought the team together and told them that it’s OK to check her, too. If I didn’t think she could handle it, she wouldn’t be here with us. Naturally, on the next go, one of our bigger guys skated hard to where she was with the puck and really popped her. She got back up and quickly gathered up the puck and went on with the drill.”
Not all teams are as accepting, but Shaw’s teammates have been welcoming to her as an addition to the team despite the changes and awkwardness.
"The guys on my team have been super accepting about it and really took me in," Shaw said, "but obviously the teams we play don't always have the same opinion and so they don't always have the same opinion and so they definitely underestimate my abilities because of that."
Even though Shaw can be underestimate, she's a capable player and an eager learner.
“She is extremely coachable and wants to learn,” Chugh said. “When something goes wrong on the ice or she gets beat, she comes to the bench asking ‘what did I do wrong there?’ or ‘how should I do it next time?’ before I have a chance to give any feedback.”