There’s been a lot of talk recently, especially in North America, about whether female ice hockey players can compete at the same level as their male counterparts. A lot of the discussion revolves around whether they can handle the hard hits that they would receive in a full-contact game, and whether they are tough enough to stand toe-to-toe with male skaters.
One woman who knows what it’s like to play a full-contact game as the only female on the team is Cpl Teresa Lewis of the Royal Air Force.
Growing up, she was a fan of the Durham Wasps, watching them every weekend with her older brother. Having fallen in love with the game, she was invited to play for the Durham Dynamites junior team when she was 7 years old, but found that her size and age meant that she didn’t get as much ice time as she’d like. Undeterred, she followed her brother and joined the Under-10s boys team. By the time she was 14, Teresa was playing on both the women’s and men’s teams, having to move further afield when the Durham Ice Rink was closed down.
Clearly, splitting her time between the two teams didn’t hinder her any, as she joined Team GB and went to eight World Championships between the ages of 14 and 25.
Over the years, Teresa played for several different teams in the UK, including Sunderland and Basingstoke, but now she plays with the RAF Lossiemouth Jets team.
The Jets are one of five regional teams that make up the Air Force Ice Hockey Association, and at the moment, Teresa is the only registered female player on any of them.
Unlike a lot of mixed gender teams, the RAF teams play some of their games as full-contact, allowing body checking that wouldn’t be allowed in a woman’s team under IIHF rules, especially those they play against the Royal Navy teams.
I don’t think it would be any different if I wasn’t on the ice, as I have played lads ice hockey for many years; the lads know what I’m capable of and if the coach thought I couldn’t take a hit or hit back then I wouldn’t get picked to play.
She added that she thinks she’s probably more physical on the ice than most of her teammates, and takes great pleasure in proving anyone wrong who thinks that girls aren’t as good as boys when it comes to ice hockey.
If you’re interested in seeing Cpl Lewis on the ice, along with dozens of other members of the Armed Forces, the best place to head to is Ice Sheffield for the 2014 Tri-Service Tournament from 2nd-6th June. Round Robin games between teams from different branches are held during the day, with the main games in the evenings at 7pm:
- Tuesday 3rd June: Royal Navy vs Royal Air Force
- Wednesday 4th June: British Army vs Royal Navy
- Thursday 5th June: British Army vs Royal Air Force