Breaking the Ice: Alex Carpenter is Leading the Way in Women’s Hockey

Team USA medalist, No. 1 National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) draft pick and Boston College alum, Alex Carpenter has already proven herself to be a dominant force on the ice - and she’s just getting started… 

Not only is she the best of the best in the rink, but she’s breaking down barriers and challenging the idea that hockey is strictly a men’s sport. We talked with the Boston Pride forward about her greatest hockey influences and her thoughts on the future of women’s hockey. Here’s what she had to say:  

You obviously found your sweet spot with hockey – how did you get started in the sport? 

I started playing hockey when I was about seven years old. My brother played for a town team in Bethlehem, NY. There were other girls on the team, so my dad had me join up. I was really lucky to have a dad who believed I could play hockey right alongside my brother.

Did you know: Alex’s dad, Bobby Carpenter, is a former NHL center, 1981-1999. He started his career playing for the Washington Capitals and wrapped up in 1999 with the New Jersey Devils. He was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame and has several Stanley Cup rings to his name as a player and coach.

You started out on the boys’ team – how did that impact your development as a player?  

It pushed me to be hyper alert - in men’s hockey, you’re allowed to check, so if you’re caught with your head down, you’re probably going to get crushed. One of the most important lessons I learned from playing with the boys is to keep your head up.

Even though there’s no checking in women’s hockey, I still play by that rule. It’s nice because now I’m able to stay alert and have a greater sense of awareness about me, but I’m looking for the next play instead of looking out for someone’s stick check. 

I’ve heard you played baseball as a kid – hockey is a pretty major shift! Any skills or lessons you’ve carried over?

Playing baseball as a kid taught me the importance of repetition in practice. Everyday we would take numerous groundballs, pop ups, swings, etc., and I think hockey requires the same kind of diligence. You need to take numerous shots, practice passing from all angles, and work on your edges in order to really master the game.

You’ve worked with a lot of amazing coaches. Who would you say stands out as having the biggest impact on you?

My dad, Bobby Carpenter...I remember watching him play and coach when I was younger, always a little bit in awe of him. He rarely missed any of my games – the fact that he valued me that much as his daughter and as a player meant a lot to me.

He always had great insights too. He picked up on the finer points of the game and shared his observations with me to help me develop a more thoughtful style of play.

We’ve seen some big moves from the NWHL this year! What can we expect for women’s hockey in the next couple of years? 

I think the women’s game has made some tremendous strides in the last year and that it will continue to move in a positive direction. Between the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) and the NWHL, there are several great options for women who want to continue playing after college. Right now, those leagues are still pretty new and they don’t have the backing that the men’s leagues do, but there are a lot of people committed to building them up.

What are some of the challenges women in hockey face?

It’s actually similar to the challenge being discussed in many industries – pay. A lot of women love the game and want to continue playing, but they have to work another job in order to make ends meet. This significantly limits the number of players and access to the game. I’d love to see more funding for the sport so that more women are able to play and help grow the game.

Any advice for aspiring young players?

My advice is simple: love the game. One of the best ways to sustain a passion for it is to take breaks - take time off and do things other than train or skate.

When I was younger, my dad would make my brother and I break for the summer. Because of that, when the season started up again in September, we were always excited to get back on the ice and get to it! Because of those breaks, I didn’t burn out physically from overuse of muscles and I didn’t burn out mentally from never-ending pressure.

When you're picking out gear, what do you look for?

I like gear that feels like it’s part of my body – not too bulky! I love using the STX Surgeon Rx2 because the curved bottom of the shaft makes the stick feel like it’s an extension of my hands.

As Alex knows, hockey is a whole other level of commitment. Here are the 8 struggles you know if hockey is life