Ice hockey is generally considered to be a man’s sport, but Jennifer Plott is out to change that.
Plott, 20, loves to play hockey and last season became not only the first woman to play on UCLA’s hockey club, but also the first to play in the Southern California Collegiate Hockey Assn.
Plott, a 5-foot 8 1/2-inch Beverly Hills native, carries a double major in biology and psychology and hopes to attend veterinary school someday.
But hockey is her passion.
“I just love to play hockey,” Plott said. “I can never get enough of it. If I haven’t been on the ice for 2 or 3 days, I feel as if I am cheating myself.”
Plott got off to a late start and did not actually play organized hockey until her junior year in high school. She had started out in figure skating at 10 but always had her eye on the sport played with sticks and pads.
“I was somewhat a tomboy when I was young,” Plott said. “When I was figure skating, I always wanted to play hockey because I would see the fun the boys had playing.”
Her interest in hockey did not come as a surprise to her parents.
“She always loved to skate and she always loved athletics,” said her father, Thomas Plott. “She used to jump horses, and she competed in track in high school. We just think it is great, now that she is into hockey.”
On the East Coast, Plott’s hockey life style would not be out of place, because women’s hockey programs are plentiful, from elementary school to the Ivy League. In Los Angeles, however, hockey was given short shrift before the arrival of Wayne Gretzky last summer, and certainly it was not what most women aspired to.
Plott had her own ideas, though. After graduating from Beverly Hills High School in 1985, she decided to enroll at Colby College in Maine because of the school’s women’s hockey program.
“My first season at Colby was frustrating,” she said. “I was a defenseman, and I did not play much because the other girls were better than me.”
But as the season went on, Plott played more.
“Jennifer was always a good athlete,” said Rob Pfeifer, Colby hockey coach. “She just did not have the necessary skills to play when she first arrived, but she improved with practice.”
After a year at Colby, however, Plott decided to return home and assist her parents, who were involved in the construction of convalescent hospitals.
“I figured that there could be no better time to repay them for putting me through school, but my return home turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” Plott said.
Her blessing turned out to be Jack White, the UCLA hockey club coach, whom she met while attending his hockey clinic.
White, 40, is credited with developing many of the top players in the area. From his junior national team, which finished third in 1983, three players have been drafted by National Hockey League teams and are playing on the Division I level in college.
“Jack White is just an amazing guy,” Plott said. “He conducts a different program than most, because his drills help you improve your handling of the puck, agility and get you to constantly move on the ice.”
Plott began practicing full time under the supervision of White and his assistant, Pat Brisson. She began taking classes at UCLA last fall and became the hockey club manager last season, then wound up playing.
“She was always around, working out with the team,” said White, “so we just started letting her play, and everyone took to her well. Her strong point is that she is willing to push through and work hard to get better.”
Plott said she did not have many problems mixing in. “The guys took to me pretty well. A couple gave me some problems with some negative remarks, but that stopped soon after I started playing.”
It helped, of course, that Plott could play. When a new UCLA goalie contended that women do not belong on the ice with men, for instance, Plott made him eat his words during a one-on-one drill when she scored on her first attempt against him.
“Yeah, that really shut him up pretty quick,” Plott said, smiling.
She also takes hockey’s rough moments in stride.
“Against USC, I was hit real hard,” she said. “I had broke up a play real nicely, and when (a USC player) returned to the ice on the next shift, he really hit me.”
Plott plans to return to Colby this December and wanted to play for UCLA again until then. But because she did not enroll in time for classes this quarter, she is not eligible.
Even so, she works out with the Bruins and is excited about returning to Colby, although she will miss the team’s first six games.
“I cannot wait to get back there,” she said. “I want to just show them how much I have improved. I will have a definite advantage from playing with guys all of this time.”
Pfeifer also is awaiting Plott’s return. “She just needed more ice time,” he said.
Plott figures, however, that she still has room for improvement.
“I still have a long ways to go,” she said. “I have to work on keeping my knees bent at all times and my head up, but if I continue to practice, I think I will be able to reach my goal.”
Plott’s goal is to play international hockey. She got a taste of it last summer, when she played in France for 3 months.
“I want to make the U.S. international team, and if women’s hockey is an exhibition sport in the ’92 Olympics, I want to be on the U.S. team,” she said.