Dayton Women Hit the Ice

The National Hockey League announced on December 20 that the 2012-2013 season is canceled through at least January 14, due to an ongoing dispute between the league and the National Hockey League Player’s Association. As the lockout rages on, a group of Dayton, Ohio women are playing on.On a chilly Tuesday night, Karen Pichler, a director of sales for a Kettering, Ohio company, arrives at the Kettering Recreation Complex. She wears a neatly tailored business suit. Instead of a briefcase, she lugs an oversized equipment bag inside, a trio of hockey sticks sticking out behind her. She’s one of the members of the Dayton Fangs, a recreational hockey team that is part of the Pennsylvania-Ohio Women’s Hockey Association (POWHA).You may like: “I actually started back when I went to Bowling Green State University,” she says when asked how long she’s been playing ice hockey. “I took a P.E. class of hockey, loved it. They started up a women’s club team at the time, and I’ve been playing ever since.”Pichler joined the fangs in 2006, just a year after they had started out as a group of five women. Just a few months after being formed, the team had more than doubled in size. In 2009, the team brought home the POWHA Lower Level Division championship. An impressive feat for a team made up primarily of women who had little to no experience.Pichler’s teammate, Jenny Siehl, is one of the few women on the team who is experienced in the sport. The fourth-grade teacher started skating at three and picked up hockey at six. She’s a tall woman, towering over most.“One of my favorite memories is playing with the boys and finally getting up to the level where I was able to check. Because I really liked checking the boys into the boards,” Siehl remembers. “It was great because I was always bigger than the guys and they would never check me back because they were afraid of checking a girl.”In a report by USA Hockey, Inc., the National Governing Body for ice hockey in the U.S., 511,178 players were registered within the organization. 444,486 of those registered were male, meaning that only 66,692 women and girls were registered to play.In a sport dominated by men, Siehl and Pichler say that there are many benefits for women who play. According to them, there’s more than just the exercise to benefit women and girls in the sport.Siehl believes that playing hockey has given her confidence that carries over into her everyday life. “It’s really taught me to be very strong. Mentally and physically. Because out on the ice, you get put into different situations where you have to be strong. So, then when I’m teaching I can think back to playing hockey and, okay, I gotta be strong at this moment. Mentally.”“I think the other piece is that it’s a good stress relief,” Pichler says. “There’s also the social aspect of it, with your teammates. You really become a close-knit unit and bond.”Siehl and Pichler encourage women who are interested in trying out the sport by pointing out that the Dayton Fangs will loan them equipment and let them participate in a few practices, no matter what their level of experience.“Just get out there, start skating, and you know, within five minutes they’re gonna absolutely love the sport,” Siehl advises women who would like to learn the sport. “If you fall, get back up. Because it’s just the greatest sport out there. I’ve tried every sport, but hockey’s the one I stuck with.”

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