Halifax County resident and ice hockey player Hailey Hamlet is used to proving her doubters wrong as the only female member of a 15U hockey team in the Junior Hurricanes House League in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

An ice hockey fan all her life, Hailey recalls watching hockey on television, including her favorite team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“We always watched hockey on TV, and I’ve always been interested in it,” said Hamlet, a 13-year-old Mountain Road resident. “A friend of ours signed their boy up to do it, and we just looked into it.”

Part of her family lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so Hailey was interested in the Penguins, particularly Matt Murray and Sidney Crosby, her favorite players.

Hamlet’s hockey odyssey began when her and her father, Tim Hamlet, discovered the Junior Hurricanes League, which operates under the auspices of the Carolina Hurricanes.

A friend of Hailey’s, Blake Shotwell from Halifax County, also went to North Carolina for several hockey lessons over an eight-or nine-week period.

“I didn’t think it was really possible to start doing it, but we went to Raleigh one day and looked over some used equipment,” recalled Hamlet.

“When I was younger, I got a pair of roller blades and learned off that,” added Hamlet, who has a 16-year-old sister, Heather, who competes in figure skating.

“When I started my lessons, she started figure skating,” said Hamlet, admitting to a little competition between the siblings.

Hamlet, who played softball for two years, holds a green belt in karate, participated in tae kwan do and participated in rollerblading at the World of Sports, was a natural on ice skates, according to her father.

“She picked it up very easily, and as a matter of fact, the first time she was on skates was the day before her first practice,” he explained.

Hamlet recently finished her second season of ice hockey with her team winning the league championship.

Four teams were in her age group and only three other girls in the whole league, but his daughter isn’t shy about mixing it up with boys much heavier and taller than she is.

“She competes with boys up to 15-years-old and holds her own, despite some of them being close to six-feet tall and out-weighing her by at least 40 pounds,” said her father. “She’s absolutely fearless on the ice around a very big kid.”

Hailey’s ultimate goal is to play in the Olympics one day, but first she is interested in Liberty University, which has a women’s ice hockey team.

The keys to her continued success will be hard work and focus, she said.

Both her parents were high school athletes, and her father said any sport his daughter has ever picked up, she’s excelled at it.

“Obviously, she’s very focused and loves every sport she plays,” he explained. “She just gets into it completely, practices all the time, constantly working on speed and backward skating.”

Some boys just tower over her, and they don’t completely accept it, but once they get on the ice with her, and she outskates them in some situations, then she starts earning their respect,” he added. “It’s a very physical and tough sport, but she hangs right in there with them.”

Hailey agreed hockey is a physical sport, but scraping along the boards and on the ice doesn’t bother her one bit.

Hockey is a physical sport, she concludes, “but if a guy can play, so can a girl.”

Doug Ford reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at dford@gazettevirginian.com.

Doug Ford covers news and sports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at dford@gazettevirginian.com.