Colby Women Ice Hockey Players Return for 50-Year Celebration

They’re coming back to play in an alumnae game and support the current team

Colby women's ice hockey
Women's Hockey Head Coach Holley Tyng directs her team during a game against Middlebury College at the Jack Kelley Rink at the O'Neil | O'Donnell Forum inside the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center. Players from throughout 50 years of Colby women's ice hockey will return to campus to celebrate the program's legacy this weekend.
By Bob KeyesPhotography by Ashley L. Conti
January 27, 2023

Kay Cowperthwait ’91 last played in a Colby women’s alumnae game seven years ago. She’s eager to return to campus this weekend to skate in the latest edition of the multi-generation game, celebrate 50 years of Colby women’s ice hockey, and watch the current team host Trinity College at 7 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday.

“Colby sports are always in my heart. My life experiences are rooted in my Colby experiences,” said Cowperthwait, who continues to play hockey regularly and has remained active in women’s sports since she left Mayflower Hill, as head coach of women’s hockey and lacrosse at Amherst College and, more recently, as founder and owner of a hockey school for women in western Massachusetts.

This will be her first time back on campus since the opening of the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center. “I am looking forward to seeing the new facility, the new locker rooms, the new rink—the whole thing. And it’s always fun to see the skills of the young players now. They’re off the charts.”

The Colby women’s ice hockey team faced off against Middlebury College Jan. 13, 2023.

The alumnae weekend will focus on 50 years of women’s varsity hockey at Colby, dating to the first intercollegiate women’s hockey game in the nation on Feb. 17, 1973, between Colby and Brown at Alfond Rink. Colby won that game, 3-2, one of just three games it played in that inaugural season. Short as it was, that season built the foundation for a half-century tradition, excellence, and a tenacious competitive spirit that has been a hallmark of the team.

A few dozen players from throughout the history of Colby women’s hockey are expected back for the alumnae game and celebration. Holley Tyng, head coach of women’s ice hockey, said the weekend gives current and recent players the chance to meet the women who began the program and others who have helped it thrive.

Tess Dupre ’20 is traveling from Kansas City. “I wouldn’t miss it,” said Dupre, who teaches third grade at a charter school. “I look forward to reconnecting with old teammates and making new friends. I still play in a league once a week out here in Kansas City, and I feel like hockey will always be a part of my life. It has given me so much.”

She was a senior leader on the standout 2019-20 team that achieved Colby’s first top 10 national ranking and that played the final game at Alfond Rink. Dupre and her teammates helped close the quintessential old barn of New England hockey with a ringing, rousing NESCAC playoff victory against Bowdoin.

“It was absolutely amazing,” said Dupre. “The whole school came out. My memories of Colby hockey will always be that last game. It’s something I will remember forever.”

(Left to right) Anne Menard ’75, Laurie Fitts Loosigian ’75, Susan Conant Cook ’75, and Susan Benson Turnbull ’75 line up for a photo during the early days of Colby Women’s ice hockey.

Susan Conant Cook ’75 was among the pioneers who helped build the program. She learned to skate growing up in Massachusetts but had never seen a hockey game until she got to Colby. She shaved the toe picks off her figure skates and learned to play on the fly.

She credits Susan Yovic Hoeller ’73 and Laurie Fitts Loosigian ’75 for generating interest in women’s hockey on campus. They recruited players regardless of experience. “If you could skate and were interested, you could go out for the team,” Cook said, remembering fighting for ice time so skaters could learn to use a hockey stick and other basic skills. “It was fun knowing we were doing something that was different and exciting.”

Cook is thrilled the women’s program is getting recognition. The pioneers of the program began building the team before Title IX prompted colleges and universities to offer women equal access to educational opportunities, including sports. “We were ahead of our time,” said Cook, who is coming to Waterville for the alumnae game. 

Colby defenders protect their goal in a game against Middlebury College.
The Colby women’s ice hockey team celebrates its 50th anniversary this season.

By the time Leah Basbanes ’88 arrived at Colby, the program was flourishing. She could have attended a larger college or university, and chose Colby because she knew she had the chance to skate regularly. Her senior year, the team played in the ECAC tournament.

Colby hockey has been a grounding force in her life since. At an alumnae game 27 years ago, she met her spouse, Grace Jeanes ’96, and they have been together since. They both remain friends with many of the women they played hockey with more than 30 years ago.

“Hockey has been a huge part of my life, at Colby and outside of Colby,” Basbanes said. “Even though we have a lot of other things going on in our lives, we are still drawn back to Colby hockey. Without it, our lives would be very different.”

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