Prep hockey: Park City's Kubicki is the lone lady on the ice
When Park City hockey coach Mike Masquelier was polling his staff on who should represent the team in the High School Hockey All-Star game, one name kept coming up: Kubicki.
The senior captain has been a leader for the young Park City hockey team this year, but it's not necessarily Kubicki's ice skills that draw the most attention from observers: Kubicki's first name is Laura.
But her gender makes little difference to the Miners. That's why they sent the only woman on the team to be the only girl on the ice at the All-Star game.
"As far as I see it, Laura plays consistently, and she gives it her all," Masquelier says. "She needs very little guidance, and she always knows where to be. She's not our scoring leader or our assists leader, but she's our most consistent playmaker. She can play."
Kubicki isn't keeping any secrets on the ice: Her long, blond ponytail is the first clue. But she does her best to make sure her game isn't what gives her away.
"I don't care if I'm playing against guys, I like to go out there," the 18-year-old says. "I've always loved the game. Scoring a goal is just the best feeling. It's rougher, but I have three older brothers, so I'm used to it."
In fact, Kubicki has played hockey at premier level for longer than a lot of high school players in the state have been able to skate. As a 5-year-old in Ohio, she watched her oldest brother play hockey and decided she wanted to do it, too. Kubicki played for two years for a team based in Michigan, where women's hockey is much more prevalent.
Then she moved to Park City.
"I don't think I realized right away how different it was here, and what I gave up," Kubicki says. "Compared to Michigan, the level of skill was way different. When I played for the Lady Grizzlies [a Utah-based women's team], some of the girls were learning to skate for the first time."
She joined the Park City team on recommendation from another female player who has since left the team to get a boost in the level of competition, in part. One of her teammates, Zack Hable, says he learned a fast lesson in gender equality the day she stepped on the ice.
"At first we all thought, 'Oh, God, a girl,' " said Hable, who is the other senior captain on the team. "I'd say as soon as she stepped on the ice, we all knew she knew the game better than half the team. For the other teams we play, it probably took about a year, but she got some respect."
Her career hasn't been without its setbacks. She uses a different locker room , and can miss out on camaraderie with her teammates.
Then there's the big target on her back. In a match last season the team declined to identify which school Kubicki was checked so often and so roughly that she was taken out of the game. When the Miners played that school again this year, Kubicki was a little intimidated, but stayed in the game.
"She is a leader, and she leads by example," Masquelier said. "If she had exhibited fear and come off the ice, the team would've followed suit. More guys look up to her than she knows, even if they're not quite at the age where they feel comfortable asking for advice from a girl."
Park City hockey at a glance
The Miners are 4-5 this year and in 6th place in a 13-team division.
A trend this year is youth: 18 of 26 Miners are freshmen.
Senior captains Laura Kubicki and Zack Hable offer experience and leadership to the squad.