If you’re looking for the picture of healthy and happy, you’d be hard pressed to find a better person than longtime Eagle Women’s Hockey League goalie, Ottalie Carlin. Ottalie may be small of stature, but she is a force of nature both on the ice and off.
Year-round she stays active by averaging 4-5,000 miles a year on her bike and skiing regularly but is perhaps better known around town as the longest serving goalie in the Mountain Women’s Hockey League. Her journey to hockey was not an obvious one. She moved to Vail in 1970 and then to Eagle in 1978. It wasn’t until 2000, when she was 51, that a friend talked her into stepping on the ice.
“She had pestered me for about six years, but I didn’t skate!” Ottalie says.
Luckily skating isn’t a prerequisite of joining the women’s hockey scene.
“When I started skating in hockey, I would be here (on the ice) every weekend with my kids, and every weekend I was practicing. I would skate forwards, I would skate backwards, and I learned. I pushed myself until I could do it reasonably well…and then the game became more fun.”
By the time the Eagle Ice Rink opened in 2003, she was hooked.
“I love it. I love the sport, hockey is wonderful, I love the physical activity, and I love the interaction with the girls,” she says. You’re out on the ice with 20, 30, 40 and 50 year-olds. The gals are wonderful. There are ski instructors, several resort snowmakers, a forest fire fighter – every segment of the community is represented. So you see this cross-section of involved, dynamic women.”
For the players with kids, it’s also a chance to do something for themselves while their family cheers them on from the stands. “Sunday night is mom’s night out. It’s their time – and the rest you leave at home,” says Ottalie.
“A lot of friendships are forged here,” she says.
For Ottalie, that camaraderie kept her in the game. “I had a case of bronchitis, I couldn’t skate from one end of the ice to the other. I was planning on quitting. And one of the gals just said, ‘You are not quitting! I’m going to put you in goalie gear,” she laughs.
“For the first two years I absolutely hated it. It’s a very humbling position to play because you take everything very personally when the puck goes past you and your team loses. It’s a hard position…but I learned to do my job, I got a little bit better, and it’s much more fun when you win a game every so often!”
“I’ve just been really impressed with her,” says Sheryl Staten, who has been active in the league since its inception and running it since 2006. “She’s been totally solid for us year after year. You can rely on her, she shows up to all of her games, real solid teammate and supportive of other players.”
“That’s one thing about this league, it’s supportive both on and off the ice,” Sheryl continues, “It’s a whole community we’ve developed. We support each other mentally and physically.”
When Sheryl had back surgery a few years back, it was Ottalie and other hockey players who jumped in to cook meals for her family. It’s a place where all are welcome thanks to a strong sense of belonging which is created by all the women who play in the league.
If you’re interested in playing hockey but nervous about how you’ll be able to keep up on the ice, Ottalie has some guidance:
“In October they have a hockey camp for the gals that would like to try playing hockey. Every year we have one or two gals who have never skated before… and that’s tough,” but it’s also par for the course in a league that welcomes all levels of experience and ability.
“Every year it’s a draft, the captain and co-captain pick their players, everyone picks up a few newbies, so the faces change every year.” She also notes that Mountain Rec rents gear for the season, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get into it.
Each winter, on average, the league brings in about 75 women across five teams. “October through December are camp days. We play January through March. March we have a tournament to end the season. We have a great big party at the end and everybody has a blast!”
Kari Mohr is an amateur in many endeavors, but an expert in enjoying the Eagle Valley every day with her husband and two young kids. An avid Mountain Recreation user and ambassador, you’re most likely to find her chasing her children around Tumble Tots or telling them to slow down at the pump track and skate park.