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A Hockey Player Named Tiffany

by Tom Dickson

In 1995, Ron Nagurski and I were asked to coach the first girls hockey team in Bismarck. We scheduled the first try-outs; although the word “try-out” is something of a
misnomer. Everyone who tried out for the team, made the team. In fact, after the first couple of practices, we still didn’t have enough players to even field a team.

The girls were literally scouring the outdoor rinks looking for more players, and Missy Mueller found her at Hillside Park.

Her stick was two feet too long, and her skates were about ten sizes too big. She weighed about 70 pounds. But she was special from the very first practice. She was in the corner and her elbows were flying; the stick was swinging; and she was pushing her way through a scrum of bigger skaters when all of a sudden she just walked out of the corner with the puck and scored.

I turned to Ron and asked, “Who’s No. 17?”

“That’s Tiffany.”

“Excuse me.”

“Tiffany.”

“No, no. Tiffany…is the name of a lamp. Tiffany…is the name of a Manhatten boutique. Tiffany… is the name of a 12-year old bubble gum singer. That is definitely
not a Tiffany; What’s her name?”

Ron looked at his chart and said, “No. 17…Tiffany Eikanas.”

“A hockey player named Tiffany. Well, I’ll be. I can’t imagine that Toe Blake ever saw this day coming.”

Welcome to Girls Hockey, and welcome to the 20th Century.

We got her a shorter stick, and we got skates that fit. She even grew a little.  Fortunately, proper attire did not diminish her skill nor her determination to get the puck
out of the corner.

Broken down to its basics, hockey is fundamentally a simple game. The team that skates the fastest and controls the puck wins the game. If the team has the puck, you have to take it away. Good manners are not required. This generally takes place along the boards, in the corner.

The corner is a tough place to make a living on the hockey rink. Elbows, sticks, knees, everything but the kitchen sink gets thrown into a very small area with one simple purpose…get the puck. Players deliberately position themselves to shield most of the activity from the watchful eye of the referee. The fact that all of this occurs beneath the radar screen makes a successful exit with the puck very difficult.

Wayne Gretzky became a legend, directing traffic from behind the net. Phil Esposito went to the Hall of Fame while camped in front of the net. But Tiffany ruled the corner. She always came out of the corner with the puck…on her forehand…looking to shoot at the net. Everybody gets lucky once in a while. A broken clock is right twice a day, but accomplishments obtained on a consistent basis invariably involve more than luck. This was one very skilled hockey player.

The first year we only had one team. Its members ranged from the fifth grade all the way up to seniors in high school. One girl had a baby. Traveling to tournaments was like being on the road with the Grateful Dead; a moving minstrel show whose purpose and focus would forever remain undetected by the casual observer. 

However, purpose and focus was readily apparent when the puck was dropped. Nicknames like Messier, Mad Dog, Hammer, and Nitroglycerin were accurate. The
nicknames fit and were earned on the rink.

During her first year of hockey, Tiffany wrote a poem for one of her classes:

I AM A VERY EXCITING GIRL WHO LOVES HOCKEY
I WONDER WHAT LIFE IS LIKE IN THAT WONDEFUL PLACE CALLED HEAVEN
I HEAR MY VERY PAINFUL HEADACHE
I SEE A BLUE EYED MONSTER
I WANT A MILLION DOLLARS AND A PORSCHE
I AM A VERY ACTIVE GIRL WHO LOVES HOCKEY

I PRETEND TO BE IN THE NHL
I FEEL MY PAINFUL HEADACHE GO AWAY
I TOUCH THE BLUE EYED MONSTER
I WORRY ABOUT DEATH AND WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO ME
I CRY CAUSE I MISS MY FATHER
I AM A VERY ACTIVE GIRL WHO LOVES HOCKEY

I UNDERSTAND LIFE AT THE MOMENT
I SAY “I HAVE A GUARDIAN ANGEL”
I DREAM OF MY FUTURE LIFE
I TRY MY BEST AT HOCKEY
I HOPE I PASS THE 8TH GRADE
I AM A VERY ACTIVE GIRL WHO LOVES HOCKEY

Her name was Tiffany, and she truly was a hockey player.

(Tiffany and her friend Alicia were killed in a motor vehicle accident in Fargo, North Dakota, on July 7, 2002. They were 19.)

(Tom Dickson and Ron Nagurski coached the Bismarck Girls Hockey teams from 1995-1998.)