When I get the gear on and step on the ice, I feel like I am untouchable.

by Rachel Stone
UNM Physical Plant

Acacia Chavez describes herself as very quiet and shy, and has been her whole life. Except when she’s on the ice playing hockey. She fell in love with a sport not typically played in Albuquerque, the city where she grew up. At the age of seven, Chavez discovered the competitive, fast-paced world of hockey, and has been ‘hooked’ ever since.

Roller hockey was the gateway to ice hockey for Chavez. She quickly engrossed herself in its history, players, and began to develop her own skills by playing in various leagues, through high school, and into adulthood playing on a coed league in Albuquerque called 30/30.

Bobby Orr, the Boston Bruins former defensemen, was a great inspiration to Chavez and helped her learn how to be a great player. “Orr is my favorite hockey player even though he was popular in the 1970s. I researched him and watched a lot of footage of him to see what made him a great defenseman,” she said.

As Chavez grew and gained skill, she was able to travel to many places because of her skill and love of the game. She had the opportunity to skate with former Olympian, Natalie Darwitz, and met Ben Smith the coach of the Women’s Olympic hockey team in 2007. At age 14, Chavez received an offer to play at the North American Hockey Academy (NAHA) in Stowe, Vermont.

“I was honored to be selected to play for NAHA, but it would have been a financial stress for my family and the thought of moving away from my family would have been hard to cope with, so I was unable to accept the offer,” Chavez said.

She was also able to participate in the Rocky Mountain District Hockey Camps and the Chicago Showcase, a prestigious event designed to allow high school hockey players to be scouted for college teams.

Playing hockey in the southwest did not lend itself to many female teams to play with, therefore Chavez found herself playing alongside males on coed teams even into adulthood.

“Hockey is a very dangerous sport! Playing against boys made me a better, more aggressive and faster hockey player,” says Chavez.

Larry Whittle, supervisor in the Physical Plant Department Area 3, has played with Chavez on the 30/30 league and says that she gave the men a run for their money on the ice.

“Acacia is very competitive! When she gets on the ice, she transforms into a hockey player, and you can tell that she’s in her element. She is a very good player who’s embarrassed some of the male players because of her skill level,” says Whittle.

Chavez is currently coaching her younger sister, Tuesday, alongside her father, Marco Chavez. She says that hockey is a part of her life and that hockey is a way of life for her.

“This sport shapes how I act as a person. Hockey, for me, is a natural high. When I get the gear on and step on the ice, I feel like I am untouchable.”

Chavez went on to say that hockey helped her grow into a confident adult.

“Hockey is a great way for me to open up as a person, get verbal, and stray from my shyness. Through the years I’ve become much more confident, thanks to this fabulous sport and my family who has always supported me.”