When Monica Quimby took up Para ice hockey at the competitive level in 2014, only a couple athletes would attend the US women’s national team tryouts each season.
Now, more than 60 competitive women attend each year.
“It has grown so much from where we began to where we are now,” Quimby said. “The importance of the development of this sport is to prove that not only can the men’s side be developed and competitive at that elite level, but that the women’s side can as well”.
“We know we are paving the for upcoming women and girls who see the sport and want to be competitive and elite. They want to make it to the Paralympics,” she added.
Quimby will be representing the US at the first-ever Para Ice Hockey Women’s World Challenge from 26-28 August. The event, presented by Citi, will take place in Green Bay, Wisconsin in the USA, with athletes from four teams taking part: Canada, Great Britain, USA and Team World comprised of athletes from different nations.
The Women’s World Challenge will be a round-robin style tournament followed by a medal round with the aim of expanding female participation in the sport worldwide.
“It’s so exciting that we get to be the host nation, and it’s very important to us to have that exposure and international brand such as Citi supporting us,” Quimby said. “That shows such a powerful message that adaptive sports for women are here and here to stay.”
From Para canoe to hockey
Quimby is a lifelong athlete who has participated in everything from field hockey to kayaking. She suffered a spinal-cord injury at age 19 while skiing for the University of New Hampshire, but that did not stop her athletic pursuits, as she quickly found a new sport.
“I still wanted to be an elite athlete and compete at that level and so I ended up going initially for Para canoe and was recruiting people from sled hockey to the sport and actually fell in love with that sport and the camaraderie it brings,” she said.
“We all come from different backgrounds and different disabilities, but our commonalities on and off the ice and our communication is incredible. We are so close. That’s the best part, that sisterhood.”
The US has had a women’s Para ice hockey programme since 2007, but it was only in 2018 that it was adopted under the USA Hockey umbrella, meaning the women’s team would receive some of the sponsorship money and training perks already afforded to the men’s team.
Quimby, who has been on the US national team since the 2014-15 season and a co-captain for the Tampa Bay Lightning club team the last few years — the same team where Declan Farmer got his start — knows it is a long and winding road for the women’s side of the sport to gain equal footing.
But it is a hill she and her teammates are eagerly climbing faster and faster as each season passes by.
“I love trying to bring more women and girls into this sport,” she said. “Having the Women’s World Challenge as an official stepping stone gets us even closer to getting the chance to compete for a Paralympic gold.”
The US team took part in a training camp in Buffalo, New York from 21-24 July, an event that also served as the selection camp for the Women’s World Challenge.
Quimby is eager to be reunited with her national teammates once again both for the camp and the Women’s World Challenge.
“You have to come together as a team because you can’t win it on your own and you can’t lose it on your own,” she said. “It’s coming together and competing for your country for that honor and that respect for the love of the sport.”