Mars Area High School's female goalie skated onto the ice on Monday to a very different sound than she did just one week ago, when she heard nothing but sexually explicit chants, all aimed toward her.
This time, she heard cheers from a fully sold out UMPC Lemieux Complex. Over 800 people had shown up to show their support, including a Winter Olympian.
During a game against Armstrong High School on Oct. 28, Armstrong students repeatedly yelled sexually explicit chants at Mars' female goalie (whose name has not been released) as she played. Her coach, Steve Meyers, told the Associated Press that she was in tears by the second period of the game. The chants were allowed to continue throughout the game and no one — not parents, not security, not employees at the Belmont Sports Complex in Kittanning, Pennsylvania — stepped in to stop them.
In response, all Armstrong students were banned from attending hockey games, and the school's hockey team was placed on probation for the rest of the 2021-22 season, including the playoffs. The school district is carrying out an investigation to identify who was involved in the chanting.
But there was also another response: the Mars community came together to show their goalie that women belong in sports. People had such an overwhelming desire to show up and show their support that Mars had to move its next game out of its home rink to somewhere with more room. According to WPXI, the Pittsburgh Penguins invited the team to move the game to the UMPC Lemieux Complex, where the Penguins hold their practices.
More than 800 people came to the arena to cheer her on, and they were loud.
The crowd at Lemieux Sports Complex erupts into cheers for the female goalie heckled at a recent hockey game. Fans, friends and former Olympians are here supporting her! @WPXI pic.twitter.com/qw6IEOV4SW
— Amy Hudak (@amy_hudak) November 9, 2021
According to NBC News, there were also positive chants on Monday night, as well as signs that read “Girls are strong!” and “We belong on the ice!”
Brianne McLaughlin-Bittle, a two-time Olympic silver medalist who now serves as goaltending coach for the U.S. women’s national ice hockey team, attended the game and was impressed with the community's response.
“It’s pretty, pretty cool. Every time she makes a save this place goes nuts!” McLaughlin-Bittle told WPXI.