Female Hockey Goalie Who Was Victim of Vulgar Chants From Students Returns to Ice

A female high school hockey goalie in Pennsylvania has returned to the ice for her first game after being subjected to "disgusting," vulgar chants from spectators at a previous match.

The student-athlete, whom the Associated Press declined to identify, plays for the Mars Area High School team, the Fightin' Planets. During an October 28 game, students from the rival Armstrong High School harassed her with vulgarities as she took the ice against their River Hawks team. Video of the incident was posted to social media, and 50 to 60 students who participated in the chants have been identified.

On November 6, the student played another game with her Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League team, the Arctic Foxes. She was met with cheers and support from the audience.

Mars coach Steve Meyers stood by his player in a statement, which highlighted the student's integral status on the team.

"We have no one else, said Meyers. "She plays varsity and JV for us. We've had plenty of girls in this league before and never heard anything like this. With all the training we're required to do as coaches about safe sports and sportsmanship, this should not happen. For it to fail this badly, it's really disappointing."

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League imposed a ban against Armstrong students from attending River Hawks games. The River Hawks were also on probation for the remainder of the season.

The investigation into the incident is still ongoing.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Team USA Women's Hockey
A high school female ice hockey player has been met with support after students slammed her with "vulgar" chants during a match. Above, members of the USA Hockey women's team listen to their coach during practice on December 20, 2018, in Plymouth, Michigan. AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Siblings of Armstrong varsity players can attend only if they enter and sit with a parent or guardian, and the school must provide a faculty member or administrator at each home and away varsity game to serve as a monitor.

League Commissioner John Mucha called the students' actions "disgusting" and "absolutely more than kids being kids."

"The game should've been stopped until the behavior stopped or the fans were escorted out of the building," Mucha said.

Meghan Duggan, Team USA Women's Hockey Olympian, offered support to the Mars player in a tweet.

"Every time you take the ice, women and girls all over the hockey community are proud of YOU!," she said. "You represent so much more than the hateful words that were directed toward you."

Meyers said she is the only goalie on the roster and one of a number of girls who have played high school hockey in previous years, some as goalie.

Armstrong's principal, Kirk Lorigan, said school officials were "appalled and embarrassed" and he was "disgusted" that parents and security guards did nothing to stop the chants. He apologized to the player, the team and the Mars community, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Lorigan said that officials were still investigating but that "appropriate school discipline has been used." The Post-Gazette reported that he declined to say Thursday night whether suspensions were imposed. The school board also didn't specify disciplinary measures. It was unclear whether discipline was imposed only on students.

Armstrong County commissioners, however, extended the ban on students in grades nine to 12 attending hockey games at the Belmont complex to include grades seven and eight, as well. In addition, high school administrators have demanded that the Armstrong hockey association hire two security guards for all future games.

High school hockey in western Pennsylvania is not a school-sponsored sport, but a club sport run by parents and boosters at each school.

The Mars Hockey Club board in a statement Saturday expressed gratitude for the support but said directors wanted to "honor and protect the privacy of our goalie." Officials said their top priority was "to facilitate a safe and healthy environment where she, and all of our student-athletes, can continue to do what they love: play hockey."

"Clearly, the incident that happened on October 28 was completely unacceptable and the entire hockey community must take steps to ensure that any similar conduct will never happen again," the Mars club statement said. "We are hopeful that the attention this incident has drawn will shed light on the issues our female athletes face which must not be tolerated and that this attention will help with eliminating this type of conduct from our sport."

Armstrong, a high school in Kittanning, is 3-0 this season and defeated Mars 7-4 in the Oct. 28 game. Mars is 0-5.