A look into the Girls’ Varsity Ice Hockey team…wait – that exists?


Reese Culbertson

Goaltender Elizabeth Culbertson spectates from the net as the Blackhawks determinedly battle in the far end.

“You play like a girl.”

A jab as casual as any other, with an implication so subtle it often goes unnoticed. This classically mocking statement faced by those who perform poorly in an activity derives from the perception that the typical “weak, fragile girl” couldn’t possibly do well in a sport. From women’s athletic feats failing to be considered as “serious” as when men perform, to the perpetuated belief that a girl can’t put actual exertion into a sport, society frequently undersells, underacknowledges and underrepresents women’s successes in athletics. It’s not radicalization; just the truth. However, countless gems of female players as young as teenage level — each with striking individuality, experience, and impeccable athletic finesse — deserve viewership, respect, and opportunity.

Among these outstanding individuals are our Bloomfield-Birmingham Blackhawks Girls’ Ice Hockey team. The Blackhawks are composed of various high school girls from Groves, Seaholm, Bloomfield Hills and the International Academy, who dedicate themselves to playing hockey during the winter season. From spectating several of these games and my own prior experience on the team during my freshman year, I know they possess talent that shouldn’t go undiscussed. The sheer amount of effort and teamwork exhibited by the group is shown both on and off the ice through their excitable personalities, welcoming of new players and nearly undefeated record. Yet for the remarkable wins they’ve taken, little is spoken of our players; many aren’t even aware there’s a team at all.


For this year, only two Groves students participate on varsity: seniors Elizabeth Culbertson (yes, my sister), the starting goaltender, and Clara Tabin, defenseman. Both are thoroughly experienced in the sport, the former having played for twelve years and the latter for seven, and consider hockey among their greatest passions. While this number of Groves students is undeniably small, the advertisement and representation received doesn’t do it favors.

“It really is a matter of representation; we have a lot more girls from International Academy and, primarily, it’s Bloomfield Hills High School.” Elizabeth explains. “So I completely understand why it’s not as broadcasted, we don’t have that big Groves student section, but it would be nice to see a little bit more advertisement and people getting excited about it. And especially because it’s Clara and [my] senior year, I think it’s really important to get some attention around it.”

Tabin furthers this point. “Sometimes I hear that they announce our games [on the FANN], but I feel like they always announce the away games— that are like 45 minutes away— and no one’s going to show up to those. Our fan section is also very small, mostly only parents and people who are going to be playing games right after us, so compared to other sports we definitely have a lot of underrepresentation on the FANN.”

The team yells their cheer before each game to ready up. (Reese Culbertson)

I also had the chance to speak with the team’s captain who plays from Seaholm, versatile senior Jessie Rebock, about her experience as a girl playing hockey for ten years. “When I say it, there’s always people giving me weird looks like ‘Oh, girls’ hockey,’ or to some surprise of ‘I didn’t even know that was a thing’ or ‘I didn’t even know you played it.’ There’s definitely a judgmental or non-knowing aspect to [girls’ hockey].” Elizabeth and Tabin agreed, emphasizing the doubt and scrutiny from others regarding the work they’ve put in.

“You’ve got the boys who’ll say it’s not as hard as ‘real hockey,’ and in some situations, you can consider things like not as tough shots — but that’s no reason to discriminate against women’s hockey. That’s no reason to say ‘oh, you don’t play a real sport.’ It’s absolutely a real sport; you face the same challenges, the same mental struggles, and the same physical struggles.” Elizabeth went on to say, while outlining some common criticisms she faces.

The puck drop at a titular face-off is taken by team captain Jessie Rebock, ready to seize the play. (Reese Culbertson)

Nonetheless, come next season, the Blackhawks will once again accept incoming players at any skill level to join the team. Under the supervision of head coach Mick Singelyn and defense coach Chris Koch, they foster the community of the team with their years of experience in hockey. Their values of placing camaraderie first and philosophies of hard work influence the team’s successful performance.

“Come out and give it a shot. It’s a sport that you’ll be able to do for the rest of your life.” Singelyn states. “Whether you’re good, bad, can’t skate, barely skate, there’s always leagues to play in as you get older. [ … ] There’s always something going on. Skating and hockey is great.”

Similarly, Koch invites the prospect of development. “I’d say come out, give it a try, see and develop a skill. It teaches you about teamwork, but it also teaches you different avenues of confidence and character building that we like to bring forward with all of these girls.”

The Blackhawks currently maintain a phenomenal record of 6-1-1, and are second in standings within their conference. You can keep up with their games, scores, players stats and more at https://www.migirlshshockey.org/page/show/7468662-bloomfield-birmingham?subseason=845257.