The US Women's National Hockey Team is crushing it at Worlds, with two victories, both shut-outs, in two games played so far - the first against arch-rival Canada. Some observers had thought that their lengthy negotiations with USA Hockey, which forced them to miss most of their training camp, would impact their play, but so far it hasn't. Or maybe it's impacted their play in a positive way. Maybe it's empowered them.
If their story has piqued your interest, I recommend that you read Mary Turco's Crashing the Net: The U.S. Women's Olympic Ice Hockey Team and the Road to Gold. It's about the US women's victory in Nagano, Japan, in 1998 - the first time women's hockey was included in the Olympics. In the tradition of Wayne Coffey's classic The Boys of Winter, about the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" in which the US Men's National Team - then made up of amateur (not NHL) players - beat the Soviets, it tells not only the team story, but also describes the individual paths and struggles of the players. As such, it makes concrete the obstacles that girls and women of that generation faced as they tried to pursue careers in the sport.
I had a hard time reading Crashing the Net, because for so much of it there were tears in my eyes - tears of pride, gratitude, sadness, joy - as well as tears of anger and defiance. All of these women had to overcome powerful voices telling them that they could not play. Not all were as overt as those who screamed at goalie Erin Whitten to "go back to the kitchen" and hurled tampons at her as she played, but as we all know, the more insidious voices - the ones most difficult to identify - are the ones most difficult to take down.
The voices telling us that we are inferior, that our play is boring and slow, that we can't be trusted to make decisions about our bodies or about what risks we're willing to take on or off the ice - those voices are still prominent and loud in 2017. But this I hope is true: girls now dare to set their expectations higher and broader than they ever did before. We dare to hope for more, work for more, and claim more for our own. Letting our own voices speak out and letting them define our ambitions and actions is the first and most important step in silencing those outside voices that tell us we can't. I didn't have this knowledge, this ability, this freedom, when I was growing up. But for the joy of knowing that so many girls now do, I thank women such as those of the US Women's National Hockey Team, past and present.