Sunday, January 29, 2012

Karen Koch

Karen Koch was the first professional female hockey player in North America.

As an 18 year old Koch (pronounced Cook) signed to play with Marquette Iron Rangers of the USHL. She would get paid $40 a game.

Marquette was a powerhouse in that league, defending champions with two established goalies. Legendary coach Oakie Brumm was impressed with her technique and kept her on the team, carrying three goalies. His only concern that she was quite small. Brumm once said that due to their size advantage his two regular goalies "stopped more pucks by accident than she did on purpose."

Her teammates brought up the expected sexist complaints of the day, but they all admitted she was a good goaltender. She also drew a lot of media attention from across the United States and Canada.

Ultimately though her career would be brief. She would be cut with 10 games left in the season with the official reason that she refused to wear a protective goalie mask. Brumm later said that though she was a sound, technical goalie, this league was just too good for her to play in regularly.

She moved to Toronto and made national headlines again when she was barred by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association from playing on men's teams.

The Marquette Iron Rangers website has a great collection of newspaper clippings concerning Koch. It is a must read for all fans of women's hockey history.

Her Wikipedia entry tells us she has earned a bachelor's and a master's degree, both in English Literature, from the Wayne State University and the University of Dayton, respectively

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