Melissa Walsh

Hockey: A Girl's Life at the Onyx

Rochester & Hills Magazine | November 2011

There’s a saying in girls’ hockey that hockey is a game invented by boys but perfected by girls. So it’s disappointing that most hockey associations do not offer a girls’ hockey program. But in Greater Rochester, girls luckily get to enjoy and “perfect” the game close to home at the Onyx Ice Arena.

“Hockey is life,” said Kathy Calcaterra, mom to U14 Girls Rochester Rattlers goalie Kayce. Raised in a hockey-loving family in a Fraser, Mich., Kathy grew up playing hockey and today is a well-respected goalie in area women’s and men’s recreational leagues. She first put her daughter Kayce in hockey skates as a tot in a Learn to Skate program. But Kayce preferred figure skates until age ten, That’s when she told her mom that she wanted to play hockey. Laughing, Kathy recalled, “Kayce told me, ‘Mom, you should’ve forced me to play hockey.’”

When Kayce’s first youth hockey team needed a goalie, she stepped up and volunteered to get in net. “I tried to talk her out of it,” Kathy said with a chuckle. Kayce said that her decision to become a goalie had nothing to do with her mother’s amateur career in net. “I just knew I was good at it and stuck with it,” she said.

“Hockey runs in your blood,” said Cindy Manko, mom to Maria Manko, a forward. First on the ice with her siblings as at tot, at age 10 Maria began playing boys’ house Peewee (12 and under) hockey. Then after two years with the boys, she joined the girls’ U14 Rattlers. “I gave up all my school sports to play hockey,” said Maria, “because I could not not play hockey.”

When asked about the benefits of joining a girls’ hockey team after playing with the boys, U14 Rattlers captain and defenseman Abby Cowan, a freshman at Rochester High School, said, “There’s just more camaraderie. I like playing with the girls more, because it becomes like a family. You have more in common with them.” Abby has ambitions of playing on the women’s national team someday, as well as playing for the University of Wisconsin.

Coach Jeff Johnson, whose daughter Sidney is on the team, said that it’s great that the U14 Rattlers are available to girls who love hockey and have aspirations of playing girls’ elite (AAA), tier-1 hockey or playing college hockey, but more tier-2 feeder teams should be available for girls. Asked if that is expected to change, Coach Jeff said, “I hope so.” The Rochester Hockey Club will likely add a U16 team next season while maintaining a U14 team.

“Girls are a lot of fun to coach,” said Coach Jeff. “And our number one goal is to have fun.”

[Info box about the program] The Onyx Ice Arena in Rochester Hills hosts the U14 Girls Rochester Rattlers team, part of the Rochester Hockey Club and one of seven tier-2 girls U14 travel teams in the Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League. The team includes players from near and far, including residents of Oakland, Macomb, and Genesee counties.