High school sports are best when they transcend the games to show support for a player or a cause. Last month, a female goalie for a Pennsylvania high school hockey game was bullied by students from an opposing team with profane and sexist chants. Coaches and administrators from both schools were appalled at the video. The girl was in tears before the game was over. And in her very next game, her own high school showed they had her back, as more than 1,000 fans packed the stands at the ice rink.
While the league took action against the offending school (the commissioner called the behavior ‘disgusting’ and the team was put on probation, with students being barred from attending any more games), the response from her own school means so much more. It’s what sports are all about, as the small arena, which may have around 100 or 200 spectators for a varsity game, was filled with nearly 1,000. Many held signs of support for the goalie.
The club shared a picture from the game and thanked the supporters for the overwhelming gesture.
“It meant a lot to our organization and showed the true meaning of what hockey is all about,” they wrote.
The families, staff, and players of the Mars Hockey Club would like to say thank you to all that supported Willow and our team last night. It meant a lot to our organization and showed the true meaning of what hockey is all about. #willowstrong #westandwithwillow pic.twitter.com/ZGMM3lWzYt
— Mars Hockey (@_Mars_Hockey) November 9, 2021
A member of the 2018 U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey team (they won the gold medal!) even wrote on Twitter that “every time you take the ice, women and girls all over the hockey community are proud of YOU! You represent so much more than the hateful words that were directed toward you.”
To the Mars goalie who was targeted at a western PA hockey game last week…Every time you take the ice, women & girls all over the hockey community are proud of YOU! You represent so much more than the hateful words that were directed toward you. I stand with you 👊🏻 @NHL @PWHPA
— Meghan Duggan (@mduggan10) November 2, 2021
The team released a statement of thanks as well to the students and supporters.
“We have a lot of respect for the way our goalie has handled herself and how she refuses to let any of the recent events keep her off the ice. Her determination is admirable. We are also beyond appreciative of the showing of support for her tonight. We were pleased with the way our Mars hockey family as well as the hockey community at large has responded and rallied around her. We feel that the support and positivity seen here at this game is a better reflection of what hockey is all about. Thanks to all in attendance for making this a special night.”
After the original incident, her coach gave a statement to a local media outlet about how disappointing it was. He said they have had plenty of girls in the league before and that she was the team’s only goalie. He also said with all the training coaches do about sportsmanship, that incidents like that should not happen.
“For it to fail this badly, it’s really disappointing.”
But in the end, it was a heartwarming show of support from hundreds of her classmates that was the true story.