Women's Olympic hockey players have all beaten the boys
They’ve all faced it at some point in their lives.
Although their journeys from childhood to Olympian are all unique in their own ways, each member of the U.S. and Canadian women’s hockey teams share one common bond: At some point in their lives, as female hockey players, their toughness – compared to the toughness of men’s hockey players – has been questioned.
However, while the U.S. and Canadian women will duel with each other for gold medals in Sochi, by simply competing on the world’s biggest stage for athletics, they’ll be banding together to break down traditional gender stereotypes that say the females aren’t tough enough to play hockey at the same level males can.
“I think my mom or dad said that if you want to go out there and play, that they had better keep up with us. There’s no coming in crying.
“After that, they always have given it as much as they’ve gotten it. They were always able to keep up with us growing up.”
Embedded video_content_type: SportsDash: Chu, U.S. not afraid to drop gloves
The “us” that Mario Lamoureux refers to is the entire quartet of Lamoureux brothers – himself, Jacques, Jean-Philippe and Pierre-Paul – that had countless childhood battles with their younger sisters, Monique and Jocelyne, that have helped prepare all six Lamoureuxs to excel at some level of competitive hockey.
Mario Lamoureux, 25, has split this season between the ECHL’s Ontario Reign and the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons, the latter of whom is the top minor-league affiliate of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.
Jean-Philippe, 29, is a goalie who plays professionally in Austria; Jacques, 27, played collegiately for the Air Force Academy before pursuing a military career; Pierre-Paul, 26, once played for the Red Deer Rebels, who are one of the top junior teams in Canada.
And of course, Monique and Jocelyne, 24-year-old twins, are two of the top players on the 2014 U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team.
“Playing with our brothers was always a pretty competitive environment,” says Jocelyne Lamoureux. “I think always competing with them is where we get our personalities from.”
Meaghan Mikkelson, a Canadian defenseman and a 2010 Olympic gold medal-winner, can share a similar story of having acquired her grit from childhood wars with the neighborhood boys.
One of those boys, her younger brother, Brendan, currently plays for the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, having already reached the NHL with the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Embedded video_content_type: U.S. and Canadian women throw down
“The battles were actually pretty one-sided when we were growing up,” says Brendan Mikkelson, now a 6-foot-3, 205-pound defenseman known for his tough play.
“She was always way bigger than me. And way better. She used to give it to me pretty good.
“My peers, especially the ones my age that were my size, they couldn’t really give anything to her, either, because, A: She was also a lot bigger than them, and B. She was lot better than them, too.
“A big reason I am the player I am now is because I was always trying to keep up with my sister.”
Just as Brendan Mikkelson can remember often being on the wrong side of squabbles with his sister, Mario Lamoureux recalls sometimes sharing a similar fate when tangling with his younger, much smaller twin sisters.
“They used to team up and try to beat me up when I was little,” says Mario Lamoureux. “I tried not to let it happen.
“But, it might have happened a few times.
“Monique would probably try to go for my feet, while Jocelyne would probably try to go for the head.
“All cheapshots. You can see it with how they play sometimes (laughs).”
While there are countless more tales of the U.S. and Canadian women’s hockey players carving their fighting spirits by successfully waging battles of the sexes – such as U.S. forward Alex Carpenter, who once scored over 150 goals in three years of Massachusetts boy’s high school hockey, starting when she was in middle school – the unique part of the 2014 Olympics is that all of these girls will now be turning the very same aggressiveness against each other.
“It’s the true spirit of competition,” is how U.S. forward Julie Chu worded it earlier this winter. “Canada’s our biggest rival. Whenever we get on the ice, we’re going to compete really hard.
“Our game is fast-paced and physical, and you throw in some passion.
“Things will happen.”
And for anybody who questions the toughness level of the “things” that will happen?
Just talk to their brothers.