My 3-Foot-9-Inch Symbol of Freedom: Why Do I Let My Daughter Play Hockey? Because in Afghanistan She Would Never Have the Choice

By Iorio, Mary Charest | Newsweek, June 3, 2002 | Go to article overview

My 3-Foot-9-Inch Symbol of Freedom: Why Do I Let My Daughter Play Hockey? Because in Afghanistan She Would Never Have the Choice


Iorio, Mary Charest, Newsweek


Byline: Mary Charest Iorio

There's nothing like sizing your 5-year-old daughter for shoulder pads to make you reconsider your decision to let her play ice hockey. As I carefully pulled the pads over her head and secured them around her petite chest, I briefly imagined my blue-eyed brunette with a black eye and no teeth.

Gabrielle wanted to start playing ice hockey at 4, because her then 3-year-old best friend could skate circles around the average 10-year-old and was already a star in his tot hockey league. If Nick could do it, she said, so could she. Problem was, she couldn't even stand up in skates. I signed her up for skating lessons in the fall of 2000 and decided to let a year of weekly practices wear down her desire.

"If you stick with it, we'll let you play next fall, when you're 5," my husband and I said. To our dismay, she persevered. We were forced to keep our promise, and in August Gabbie became one of two girls out of 48 kids signed up for the 3-to-5-year-olds' ice-hockey league.

Two weeks later, on Sept. 8, we drove from Detroit across the bridge to Canada, quickly turning left into the parking lot of Canadian Tire, Canada's rough equivalent to Kmart but with aisle after aisle of hockey gear. I pulled the tiniest hockey shorts I could find up around her waist and tugged the belt tight. In full gear, she stood before me, smiling broadly and looking three times her normal size. Around us, a sea of safety equipment flooded the linoleum: elbow pads, shin guards, helmets, face shields, boxes of black CCM and Bauer skates. I stared at the pelvic protector and cringed.

We soon experienced our first hockey Saturday and a 7:50 a.m. practice slot. Sleepy and jarred by the overwhelming number of boys and the strikingly limited femininity on the ice, Gabbie froze. Despite my fears for her safety, I gave her a "girls can do anything" pep talk.

The next week I accidentally became an assistant coach. When a few dads missed practice, the director asked if I would grab my skates and help out on the ice. At the end of practice, she asked what size jersey I wore. "Huh?" I replied. "I know nothing about hockey."

"You know how to skate," she said. "That's all you need to know. The coaches will tell you what to do." I was suddenly the third female in the league. My daughter and I simultaneously learned about Superman slides, hockey stops and puck-handling drills. …

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