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Uploaded By: PRESIDENT on December 19th, 2023

Karen Ann Koch - Born October 3, 1951 in Gibraltar, Michigan is retired ice Hockey goaltender.

Koch was an 18-year-old freshman enrolled at Northern Michigan University / NMU in Marquette, Michigan when she attended a tryout with the Marquette Iron Rangers of the United States Hockey League / USHL at the Palestra Ice Arena in Laurium, Michigan, a Historic Hockey Arena which was the first building in the world built specifically for the use of ice Hockey, also hosting some of the 1st ever professional Hockey games.

Iron Rangers coach Len Brumm talked with Koch after team captain Barry Cook approached him and said "Coach, did you know that little squirt of a goalie is a girl?"

Koch said she had enrolled at Northern Michigan University specifically to try out for the Iron Rangers. She had been playing Hockey and lacrosse with the boys in Gibraltar ever since she could remember. She went on to say that none of the senior teams in the Detroit area would give her a tryout. She said she had heard nothing but good things about the Iron Rangers and felt she could make the team. She desperately didn't want to be cut without a fair tryout.

I thought to myself, A girl goalie...what if she gets hurt? Where is she going to change clothes? Just how good is she? For one of the few times in my life I didn't know what to do. She had done nothing to justify cutting her. So I told her we should see how well she did and that she'd be given a fair tryout.

In subsequent practices she showed remarkable ability. Her only drawback was her size. Both of our goalies were big guys. They stopped more pucks by accident than she did on purpose.

Koch's presence on the team brought complaints from the veteran players, but even they admitted she was surprisingly good and probably equal to our regular backup goalie. Their griping was far overshadowed by the national publicity she generated after her photo was run in the daily and weekly newspapers. We got calls from the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters and newspapers, radio and TV stations from all over the U.S. and Canada. It was a major news story. And while Koch was stopping pucks and earning her place on the team. When it came time to cut the team down to eighteen players and two goalies; Brumm changed the number and kept seventeen players and three goalies, including Lunney, Lytaikainen and Koch.

Koch signed a contract with the Iron Rangers of the now-defunct semi-pro United States Hockey League for the 1969-1970 season, as a back-up goalie to Brian Lunney.

She was paid $40 a game in a league that paid anywhere from $25 -$100+ per game for players.

Northern Michigan University confirmed Koch attended 2 semesters at NMU from August 1969 to May 1970.

She played as well as any of our previous backup goalies when I was able to use her. She wasn't solid enough to start and play regularly because the league simply was too good. Word of her being on the squad preceded our first game of the season vs the Soo Canadians. She caused so much interest that Soo officials called and insisted that she be announced as the starting goalie to swell attendance. City staff arranged for John Rhodes the Mayor of Sault St. Marie, Ontario, who had been a pretty good Hockey player in years past at Princeton University, to take a pre-game penalty shot at Koch.

The Mayor going in all-alone against the world's only female goalie. Her presence, along with the highly anticipated "shootout”, filled the arena and she received a standing ovation when she stopped the Mayor's shot. He received taunting boos as he returned to the stands. She played the first period, giving up two goals on twelve shots as the Iron Rangers left the ice trailing 2-0. Lunney finished the game with the Iron Rangers winning 5-3.

Later on Koch again filled the Green Bay Arena when the rumor spread that she was going to start against the Bobcats. Brumm hadn't planned to start her, but the sight of more than 5,000 fans in the arena changed his mind. He decided it would be good for Hockey and for the Green Bay coffers. She played half of the first period but had to come out when she took one of Paul Coppo's slap shots on the knee above her leg pad and below her thigh pad. The score was 1-1 at the time.

As the season wore on Koch reached a plateau in her ability, partially caused by her small size. She never missed a practice and finally was accepted by all but the most chauvinist guys on the team. Unfortunately, she seemed to have a "death wish" for a facial scar caused by a Hockey puck in a USHL game. She simply and consistently defied my orders to wear a mask while playing said Brumm. After flagrantly removing her mask during all of the games after Christmas, He was forced to let her go with about ten games remaining in the schedule.

Marquette Iron Rangers played a 30 game schedule in the 1969-70 USHL season, winning 24, 1 loss and 5 ties.

Koch left NMU the next semester and went to Canada to play in the Metropolitan Toronto Hockey League. She again made headlines throughout North America when she was barred by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association from playing on men's teams.

There is no other information about Koch playing after 1971, so maybe she got tired of the verbal shots at her and the rules not allowing female players to play in regular leagues.

Her father Harold Nicholas Koch, was the director, coach, and referee for Gibraltar's Hockey program. Also building the Hockey rink there.

Sourced from President's Collection.


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