Every hockey player has a unique story of how they found the sport, or how the sport found them.
“I grew up in Maine with two older brothers,” Meg Fortier shares. “Like most little sisters, the most important thing in the world to me was trying to keep up with them. When they played ice hockey, I quickly followed suit. Most backyard scrimmages, I was stuck playing goalie so they could play 1v1, yet I still loved every second.”
Courtney Pensavalle had a similar experience, growing up playing ice hockey with boys in Massachusetts.
All the way across the country, Cherie Stewart got her start in roller hockey at the age of twelve, in Lake Forest, California.
Though they found hockey in different places and for different reasons, their stories intersected years later on the streets (and courts) of New York City.
With the nickname “concrete jungle,” it is no wonder that ball hockey is both an accessible and growing sport in New York City. It is the reason that these three women first found themselves part of the same hockey community. A community that – while stemming from New York City – reaches far beyond.
“Playing hockey in NYC has shaped me in many ways,” Cherie shares. “I learned how to play ball hockey here and it’s given me opportunities to play internationally (Switzerland, Czech Republic, Bermuda, Slovakia, and Canada) and for that I am grateful. Over the years, I’ve met some amazing people across the country through this sport and it’s expanded my hockey network more than I could have imagined. I’ve had the privilege to coach Team New York U16 girls team and introduced this sport to others as well which means a lot to me too. Overall, I fully embraced this sport and gave everything to it – it’s been quite a journey of wins, losses, and life lessons.
“While NYC hockey leagues can pose some challenges, if the compete-level or league culture isn’t aligned, if you find the right fit, then you’re golden,” Cherie continues. “The NYC hockey grind lifestyle might not work for everyone but if you can make it here…you can make it anywhere!"
“I likely wouldn't be playing ball hockey at all had I not moved to NYC!” Meg weighs in. “I was playing in a men's ice league at Lasker in 2019 when I met Becca Cohen who introduced me to the women's Thursday Night Skate. As our winter skate was winding down everyone recommended I join BTSH (Black Top Street Hockey) and here I am many years later. I had no idea how impactful ball hockey would be to my life, but the community has been so welcoming and so many of the individuals involved have become life-long friends; it's great to be a part of ball hockey in NYC and it's something I'll surely miss as I get ready to move.”
But before making the move from NYC to Colorado, Meg had one more stop to make: Quebec, Canada. On June 17-25, Cherie (#13), Courtney (#19), and Meg (#12) represented the United States of America as members of the US Women’s National Team. These elite female athletes who first played together in New York City, earned the chance to compete together on a world stage.
Before leaving for Quebec, they shared their thoughts on what the moment meant to them:
“Having grown up playing ice hockey with boys my whole life, I dreamt of playing on a team with all women and representing my country,” Courtney said. “I am so honored and excited to wear the USA jersey and to compete alongside elite female ball hockey players around the world.”
“It is such an honor to play for Team USA,” said Cherie. “Playing with and against some of the best players in the world and performing on the biggest stage. The feeling when you step onto the rink with the USA jersey on with your teammates, hearing the anthems, the lights, the cheers (and jeers!) – there’s nothing like it and I love it. Every opportunity to play for this team is a privilege and I want to play my best and hopefully make my family and country proud.”
The importance of family and community was something Meg highlighted as well.
“While my brothers have certainly been role models, my dad, a former collegiate hockey player, has really been my mentor, and at times my coach in the sport,” Meg shared. “He and my mom have traveled countless miles over the years to watch and support my journey. This week is no different as they make the trek up to Canada.”
As payoff for making the trek, Meg’s parents got to see her recognized as the Women’s Player of the Game after scoring team USA’s only goal during their first game against Canada. Cherie, Courtney, and Meg all competed hard in the following days, acting as key pieces in team USA’s victories against Slovakia, Great Britian, Lebanon, and the Czech Republic. Though they lost to Slovakia in the playoffs, coming in 4th overall, the competition was a testament not only to these three women’s skill and compete level, but to their leadership in the sport, and to their importance to the ball hockey community in New York City and beyond.
As Meg gets ready to move and bring her hockey expertise to a new place, she will forever remain an important member of the NYC ball hockey community. Cherie continues to be a force both as a coach and player in New York City and beyond. And Courtney is getting ready to captain a team in the first ever Women’s Ball hockey League in New York City.
“Competing at the National Ball Hockey World Championships was a special experience,” Courtney shares. “It was a honor to represent my country and to play at the highest level among my female peers. Furthermore, I appreciated the opportunity to meet players from all over the world and to connect through our shared passion for ball hockey.”
For these women, all the world truly is a rink: the possibilities are endless.
By, Ellie Milewski