Daily photos by Jonathan Palmer|
Madeline Golden, 14, checks a player during a game Wednesday. Madeline and her sister, Olivia, 13, are the only females in their hockey league, but they don’t hide their gender on the ice. Madeline wears her hair in a ponytail with a pink ribbon on it, and Olivia lets her blond hair hang from under her helmet.
Golden Girls on ice
Hartselle sisters fulfilling their dream in boys league
By Deangelo McDaniel
By day, they are average teenage girls. They enjoy music and sharing a joke in the halls at school with classmates.
But, when sisters Madeline and Olivia Golden put on their skates, chin guards, elbow pads and chest protectors, they have a message for you.
“You should never try to come between a girl and her hockey,” said Madeline, a freshman at Hartselle High School.
That’s right, the Golden girls — Madeline, 14, and Olivia, 13 — are the only females in a hockey league that is sometimes as physical as football.
And if you think they are token players, you’re wrong.
“They are very good, very skilled skaters who work tremendously hard and can handle the puck with the best of them,” coach Bob O’Gorman said.
The sisters play on his Decatur city-league team called River City, and his select team named the Huntsville Rockets.
Madeline Golden prepares for a hockey game at the Huntsville Iceplex.
The Rockets, O’Gorman explained, is like a group of all-stars.
“They can skate with the boys,” he said. “I look at them as hockey players rather than boys and girls.”
It wasn’t that way for parents Amy and Harry Golden when the sisters introduced the idea of playing hockey four years ago.
The Golden sisters lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, when some of their friends persuaded them to play in an all-girls league.
“It was a no-contact league,” Madeline recalled. “I mean, you ran into people, but you couldn’t blatantly check them.”
Back in Alabama
When the family, all Morgan County natives, moved back to Alabama, the sisters didn’t leave their love for hockey in Alaska.
But there was a problem. Alabama didn’t have an all-girls league.
“I will be the last mom to tell them they can’t do something because they are girls,” Amy said. “Do I worry? Sure I do. There are times when it’s hard to watch, but if someone makes a clean check on them, that’s part of the game.”
Madeline and Olivia understand that injuries are inevitable.
Fortunately, they have avoided getting seriously hurt. They spend the entire hockey season with bumps and bruises and aches and pains.
It’s the price you pay for something you love, said Madeline, a defensive player who spends a lot of time checking players who are trying to score against her team.
Olivia Golden, left, who plays wing and center, says she gets hit a lot when people try to take the puck from her. The Golden girls’ mother, Amy, right, says she worries about them, but “I will be the last mom to tell them they can’t do something because they are girls.”
“I have bruises where I don’t have pads, but that’s part of hockey,” she said.
Olivia, who plays wing and center, takes more hits because she’s trying to get her team in a position to score.
“I get hit a lot because people are trying to get the puck from me,” she said.
Olivia is capable of dishing out punishment, as she did last year in a close game with a team from Memphis.
The opponents had a 6-2 player who weighed almost twice Olivia’s weight. To preserve a win, she ran him down, hip checked him and took the puck.
“I said there goes my baby after that boy,” Amy recalled. “When she got the puck, I said that’s my girl.”
The line between what’s legal and what’s not isn’t always followed. Olivia learned that last year in a game with a Mississippi team.
She was on a breakaway when an opponent swung his stick like a bat and hit her in an unprotected part of her stomach.
“That was dirty,” Olivia said.
“Hockey is not about hitting or hurting people,” Madeline added.
But it is a tough sport, a sport that is sometimes tougher on the sisters because they are females.
They do not hide their gender on the ice. Madeline wears her hair in a ponytail with a pink ribbon on it. Olivia lets her blond hair hang from under her helmet.
“They know we are girls,” Olivia said proudly. “Sometimes they come after us because we are girls, but we have gotten used to it.”
As for the penalty box, you’re most likely to find Madeline there.
“It’s amazing,” Amy said. “Coaches tell me when Madeline is in the penalty box she has perfect manners. But when she’s on the ice, she’s as rough as one of the guys.”
Don’t be surprised if you someday see the sisters playing with the boys at the college and professional levels.
They know that playing in college is possible because one of their former instructors, Ashley Wagner, plays collegiate on a scholarship.
“That would be a dream to play in college,” Madeline said.
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