A strong hockey tradition has characterized the culture of Middlebury College for many years. A tradition that began decades ago when students would play pickup games on frozen ponds, hockey was a way for friends to enjoy the cold winter weather that persisted for months. The game was much different from what it is today but those humble beginnings years ago founded a strong hockey community that would exist for years to come. These small games of pond hockey eventually transformed into enough support for a varsity team. The 1922-1923 season marked the first time Middlebury had a men’s hockey team that competed against other schools. During this time, the sport of hockey was seen as a privilege reserved just for men. Women had a few opportunities to participate in intramural hockey programs, but there was no established varsity team.
The opportunities for women to participate in not only hockey but also other sports greatly expanded when Title IX was passed in 1972. Title IX prohibited sex discrimination in all federally funded institutions. Although its focus was on educational opportunity, Title IX’s biggest impact was felt in the area of sports. Title IX significantly expanded the opportunities and funding for women’s athletics across the United States.
Following the passage of Title IX, academic institutions, including Middlebury, were required to provide equal athletic opportunity for their male and female students. As part of this effort, women who desired to play college hockey finally received a chance to achieve their dream at Middlebury when the first women’s varsity ice hockey team was established in 1981.
Since its establishment, the Middlebury Women’s Ice Hockey team has had a history of success in Division III women’s hockey. To date, the team has a record of 541-163-35 and carries a .756 win percentage.
Before joining the NESCAC, the New England Small College Athletic Conference, in the 2001-2002 season, the Middlebury Women’s Ice Hockey team won six consecutive ECAC titles from 1996-2001 and two AWCHA National Championships in 2000 and 2001. Since joining the NESCAC, the team has won six NESCAC titles and three NCAA National Championships in 2004, 2005, and 2006. In addition to these titles the women’s team has also made appearances in NCAA play eight other times.
Middlebury has had 35 All-American players in the 14 years that the College All-American Team has existed. In addition, the Panthers have had four National Players of the Year.
Although the women’s ice hockey team has posted significant success over the years, it has also fostered a strong sense of community within its teams and between current and past players. Each player who has been a member of the women’s ice hockey program at Middlebury can share memories from their playing careers and relate to those who also shared similar experiences. However, most importantly, they can all remember the importance of playing for the “M” on the front of their jerseys.