Beyond the Playbook: Bonnie Shea honored as first woman to play organized hockey in Duluth
Growing up across from Congdon Park in Duluth, seven year old Bonnie Shea used to watch the boys play ice hockey. After getting herself a paper route, buying some gear, and tucking her hair into her helmet, she became the first woman to ever play organized hockey in Duluth.
At 15 years old, Shea was told she couldn’t play anymore because she was a girl.
25 years later, Shea joined the University of Minnesota Duluth’s (UMD) club team. From age 40 until present day, Shea has laced up the skates and given it her all.
“At seven, I played very hard, I skated fast and I was very smart because I had to prove I could belong on that boy’s team,” said Shea. “Now I say at 79, I’m still very smart, but I’m very cautious. I don’t skate as fast as I used to because if I fall, will I get up? I don’t know.”
Shea’s continual love for the sport was apparent when speaking with her.
“I just did it because I loved it. I got back into it because I love it and I’m still playing it because I love it. Everybody is telling me, Bonnie, it’s because of you. But not really because, you know, other girls started playing too. But i guess at seven in 1951, there wasn’t a girl playing on organized boys hockey teams.”
Besides the love of the game though, Shea says the opportunity being taken away from her made the return that much better.
“I guess because it was taken away from me and I got the opportunity, I said, ‘I’ll never let that go again.'”
However, inside of the arena, Shea already has plenty of pictures and memories on display.
Bonnie Shea, along with an infectious smile and personality, also carries an uncanny amount of wisdom with her, and even some advice.
“Well, just for anybody. It’s not just hockey. When there’s an opportunity, don’t pass it up.”