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She finds ice nice even in Florida

By HELEN ANNE TRAVIS
Published May 11, 2007


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The boys on the Newsome High School ice hockey team didn't know what to expect. Neither did coach Rudy Racine.

But he told the petite sophomore with the dark hair that she could come out and practice with the ice hockey team one Thursday afternoon.

Ashley Chinn, 15, was on the ice just 15 minutes when Racine approached her mother. The Newsome White team has a game tomorrow, he told Ashley's mom. Can your daughter play?

Now she's the only female on the team. She has the entire women's locker room at Brandon Ice Sports Forum to herself when the team practices on Thursdays. Ashley plays forward, center or wing. She gets angry when her teammates or opponents go easy on her. She can take it, she insists.

For Ashley, playing with the guys on the Newsome White team is merely a way to stay in shape.

Ashley found ice hockey when she was 10 and living in Pennsylvania, where ice rinks abound and programs for serious hockey players are common. She kept up the sport after moving to Georgia and then to Valrico, where her father's job took the family.

Ashley and her mother made the eight-hour trip from Georgia to St. Petersburg to try out for Team Florida, an affiliate of USA Hockey, the country's national governing body for hockey. She made the league for her age group.

"Once I found a league, I could focus on finding a school, " Ashley said.

The Team Florida league took her to games in New York, Connecticut, Tennessee and a bunch of other states she doesn't remember.

She doesn't keep track of how many goals she has made. "If you focus too much on stats, then you don't play as a team, " she said.

The girls in her Team Florida league tease Ashley because she wears makeup and clothes that fit well, and because she was a cheerleader at a past school.

What's the point of taking a few minutes to curl her hair in the hotel mirror before bed, they ask. But they're her best friends and Ashley hears from them every night by phone and through MySpace.com.

Team Florida competed in the 2007 USA Hockey National Championships in San Jose, Calif., in March. The team went 0-3 and didn't qualify for the playoff round. Now, hockey's done except for the Newsome High White team.

Her friends from Team Florida are scattered throughout the state. The closest one lives hours away, and she misses them now that the league's season has ended.

Some of them have made plans to go to ice hockey prep school together. Ashley has sent out applications and hopes to attend next year.

But her parents are wary. There's the money, the distance, and the fact that their daughter wants to move out of the house before she can drive.

She has made it into two schools but is still waiting to hear from Ohio's Gilmour Academy, where she really wants to go.

Until then, Ashley practices her shot on the Plexiglas surface set up in her back yard. She shoots at the goal set up next to the pool and behind the small mounds that mark the end of the subdivision's golf course.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at 661-2439 or htravis@sptimes.com.

[Last modified May 10, 2007, 08:00:26]


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