The Raptors — whose home rink is the Richmond Ice Zone — is part of the East Coast Women’s Hockey League and is one of only four teams across more than a dozen states eligible to compete in the tournament.
To prepare, Nelson, says, “We stepped up our competition.” They played stronger teams in B leagues. In December, the Raptors traveled to North Carolina where they played the Raleigh Trailblazers in an exhibition game.
“We thought, Oh geez, we’re going to be eaten alive,” Nelson recalls. That was hardly the case. The Raptors won.
Now they’re on a mission to raise the $6,000 they need for the whole team to go. “This opportunity has never been open to us,” Nelson says, adding that no one will be left behind on the trip.
Style featured the Raptors in a January 2001 cover story after the team’s second year. The next year, the team won the championship in its division. Yet women’s ice hockey is almost a secret in the Richmond area.
Thanks to indoor year-round facilities such as Richmond Ice Zone, the sport is more accessible than in the past. Nelson points out that most of the Raptors are transplants from the North who grew up with the game.
With the upcoming tournament, the Raptors hope to prove that even in the South, women are a formidable stick-wielding force. It appears the description is just beginning to stick with the Raptors themselves. Nelson says happily of her team: “I’m dumbfounded at us.” — Brandon Walters
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