'It takes a lot of courage for women to step into a field that's so male-dominated, and it’s scary, so I hope that people can learn to respect them more.'
Trigger warning: This article contains accounts and footage of sexual harassment that may disturb readers.
A female high school hockey player's return to the ice after a traumatic game last month was made unforgettable by her classmates and strangers alike. The goalie—who plays for the Mars High School boys hockey team in Mars, Pennsylvania—was the target of horrible chants of a vulgar and sexual nature during an October 28 game between the Armstrong River Hawks and Mars Fightin' Planets at the Armstrong team's Belmont Ice Arena near Kittanning, in western Pennsylvania. A video circulating on social media shows a group of 50 to 60 students yelling derogatory chants at the teen.
She’s back! A big show of support for the female Mars goalie who experienced sexist and vulgar chants at a game 9 days ago. The 8pm game tonight is sold out at the Lemeuix Sports Center. 850 tickets. @KDKA pic.twitter.com/1mI5pCnAcf— Jennifer Borrasso (@JenBorrasso) November 9, 2021
ICYMI: Capacity crowd turns out to support Mars hockey goalie who had been subjected to vulgar chants https://t.co/Jgg4jGsWu7— Tribune-ReviewSports (@TribSports) November 9, 2021
Female hockey goalie receives massive show of support after being targeted with vulgar chants https://t.co/3rGlHB3oyJ— Antifa McGartencenter (@Cyrus_McDugan) November 10, 2021
When the goalie — whose name is not being used to protect her privacy — returned for her first school game since the incident on Monday, she was cheered on by a packed arena who applauded her for continuing to play despite the criticisms. "To the people from Armstrong, shame on you. She had the courage to try out for a varsity male-dominated sport, and she made the team, and she's starting varsity goalie, and they think they have the right to say something like that to her when they're literally standing in the stands," Mars Area High School student Emily Miracle told WTAE.
“I think it takes a lot of courage for women to step into a field that’s so male-dominated, and it’s scary, so I hope that people can learn to respect them more,” Mars Area High School student, Gillian Porter tells @KaleaGunderson https://t.co/XEVFEYvpIg— Andrew Stockey (@astockeyWTAE) November 9, 2021
Another student named Gillian Porter shared similar sentiments, saying: "I think it takes a lot of courage for women to step into a field that’s so male-dominated, and it’s scary, so I hope that people can learn to respect them more." Last week, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League barred Armstrong students from River Hawks hockey games and placed the school's team on probation for the remainder of the 2021-22 season, including the playoffs. According to the Associated Press, siblings of varsity players may only attend if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian, and the school must provide a faculty member or administrator at each home and away varsity game to serve as a monitor.
‘You Are Not Alone’: Mars goaltender receives a great show of support at hockey game in Cranberry https://t.co/jULjdqrvHX— Post-Gazette Sports (@PGSportsNow) November 9, 2021
Calling the students' actions "disgusting" and "absolutely more than kids being kids," League Commissioner John Mucha said: "The game should've been stopped until the behavior stopped or the fans were escorted out of the building." Speaking to reporters, Mars coach Steve Meyers revealed that his goalie was in tears after the traumatizing experience. "We have no one else. She plays varsity and JV for us," said Meyers. "We've had plenty of girls in this league before and never heard anything like this. With all the training we're required to do as coaches about safe sports and sportsmanship, this should not happen. For it to fail this badly, it's really disappointing."
And here’s to her. pic.twitter.com/Odq8SpRWwM— Mike White (@mwhiteburgh) November 9, 2021
"After I heard what happened, I couldn't help but come and support her," Alexis Claycomb, a 13-year-old student in the Shaler School District who also is a goaltender for a Pens Elite team, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It definitely hit a little spot when I heard about this. I didn't really believe it at first. When I first started playing, the boys were always very accepting of me. As I got older, I could tell they would rather have a boy goalie... It's hard to feel part of a boys team sometimes, but they try their best with me, so I appreciate it."
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
Inside the Lemieux Sports Complex, people are pouring in to show support of the Mars female goalie who experienced vulgar and sexist chants at a game 9 days ago. The puck drops at 8 @KDKA pic.twitter.com/0JA0eCwMIa— Jennifer Borrasso (@JenBorrasso) November 9, 2021
Full house at UPMC 66 to support the female goalie from Mars: pic.twitter.com/fxjrwQxKdH— Wes Crosby (@OtherNHLCrosby) November 9, 2021
"Boys think they can do whatever they want because we’re girls. Well, they can't. It's important to show that we care," said 10-year-old Tess Krotine. "It's really not OK what those [Armstrong] kids did. It's important to have girls playing sports. She is like a role model to other girls because she ended up fighting through what they said to her." Acknowledging the overwhelming show of support for his goalie, Meyers said: "The gravity of what happened and then to see this kind of support, it makes you feel good and makes her feel good. At the Penguins game the other night, it was nice to see her smiling and having a good time with the team. It was nice to see her just being a kid. This has definitely weighed on everybody. She's been going through a challenging situation. To get this kind of attention, I think we're all looking forward to things dying down."