By Tiffany L. Rehbein
The stick woman on the front of her shirt clutched a hockey stick and a determined look sat on her face. Rebekka Lass shirt read, See Jane shoot. See Jane score. See Dick cry.
In the photos that rested against the living room wall, behind the white, gridded hockey mask, Lass face probably wore that same intense expression.
Lass, who is ranked as one of the top female hockey players in the western United States, has been chosen for the second consecutive year to compete at the U.S. Olympic Development Camp at Lake Placid in New York.
I thought it was the greatest thing when I found out, Lass said, relaxing recently in her Havre home.
Sixteen-year-old Lass attends Aspen High School in Colorado and plays forward, usually center, she said, for the Avalanche, the girls hockey team.
Ruth, Rebekkas mom, said that after Rebekka attended the Lake Placid camp last year, her daughter was approached to attend the Aspen school.
They saw her and they wanted her, Ruth said. So, last August she and Rebekka packed some belongings, rented an apartment and moved to Aspen for the school year.
Competing on the Aspen Girls Tier I hockey team earned Lass the Playmaker Patch for her offensive and scoring skills.
Awards are not unknown in the Lass household, whether its in Havre or Aspen. She should open her own trophy room, mom jokes, showing only the most recent awards.
In September, at 15 years of age, when most of her competition was 19, Lass was awarded the Shattuck-St. Mary's School First Team All-Tournament award.
The previous August, Lass was selected to play on the Midwest Team and was one of the top scorers at the tournament. Last summer she also competed at Hockey Night on a Boston Team. At Exeter Camp she was awarded the most valuable player. And at Dartmouth University, she was given the Coaches Award.
She was just the perfect camper, mom said. She worked the hardest and played the hardest and was, overall, the best.
Lass said that she began skating when she was about five years old but it didn't last long.
I didn't like it. I hated it, she said about her early skating days, which totaled about four times, in Michigan.
However, she began playing organized hockey on a boys team when she moved to Havre in 1990.
Dad just gave me a pair of skates and said, Let's go skate. So we did, Lass said.
Her greatest memory of those early years was when she lifted the puck over the goalie.
I thought is was the greatest thing, she said.
Last year was her first year playing with girls.
It was different, she said, comparing boys to girls. Girls have more finesse. But there's no checking, she laughed.
Her days on the ice without the boys were short-lived. The midget AA boys played at a faster pace and showed true dedication to the sport, unlike some girls on her team, Lass said.
Sometimes, with a 6 a.m. practice, Lass and two or three other girls would be the only players to show up to practice.
There was just no girls commitment, she said.
But Lass thrives on commitment every day. In my world, hockey takes precedence, she laughs. And in her world, hockey camps take up much of her summer time.
After Lake Placid she will compete at the Dynamic Skating Camp where she will practice power skating techniques. Then three weeks await her at Dartmouth.
During the past hockey season, 15,000 miles were flown to various competitions.
The dedication on Lass end has paid off. Last year, she was chosen by her coach to compete at the Montana State Rocky Mountain hockey tryouts in Billings.
From there, she advanced to nationals in Dallas. This year, she was given a bye at the Rocky Mountain district tryouts and went straight to Dallas.
From Lake Placid, Lass hopes for the same advancement. Ben Smith, head coach of the Womens National Team, will be present to help choose girls to advance to the Festival Games. These games are used as tryouts for the national team, or, during an Olympic year, the Olympic team.
Lass last experience at Lake Placid was mixed.
Some of the girls there I thought, Wow, how did you make it here. Others I just thought, Wow, youre really good, Lass said.
That quality of play pushes Lass to succeed. Lass said the tougher the competition, the better she plays.
She travels to the Olympic Village at Lake Placid on Saturday and, having shown that practice and dedication could propel her this far, hopes for the same advancement in the future.