Breaking Barriers

It’s 4:45 a.m.

Some might have still not gone to bed. Some might be sleeping for just a little bit longer, but Blades goaltender Jetta Rackleff is turning her alarm off to start her day. She wakes up and grabs breakfast to-go so she can get a quick lift and run in before the break of dawn.

She then begins her day job as a General Engineer in the United States Air Force, working in risk management for the Weather Department.

Meanwhile, Kristina Brown is a Blades forward with a similar morning routine. The Project Engineer’s destination is John Moriarty Construction. She and her team are currently working on building an apartment complex near the Yawkey Way Commuter Rail Station.

Brown works both in the field and in an office, which is a trailer just outside the worksite. Here, they create drawings and coordinate the people needed to make sure the building comes together smoothly. Her team has previously created City Target and the Pearce Project in Boston.

These two teammates have unique jobs that they have worked incredibly hard to get to, alongside playing professional hockey.

“In college, I studied chemical engineering with a minor in mechanical engineering,” explained Rackleff. “Many of my routines have been structured around engineering, workouts and hockey together for six or seven years now. On the tough days I remember that I love solving problems and I love playing goalie. Having a ‘why’ to what you are doing makes the ‘how’ seem simple.”

Engineering and professional sports have historically been considered male-dominated fields. Approximately only 14 percent of current engineers in the US are female according to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee and of the 1.2 million Canadians over the age of 15 who play hockey, only 102,000 were women according to Statistics Canada.

However, Brown, Rackleff, and many women today have proved that they’re just as capable of thriving in both fields.

“If you love to do something and you’re passionate about it, you show up,” Brown stated. “Even if you don’t know everything, I’ve learned it’s all about just being confident. When you walk into a room, walk in like you belong there, and work hard.”

Breaking through barriers is a testament to an individual’s desire. It is also a reflection of the environments we choose for that path. Rackleff weighed in on her experience within her hockey and engineering settings.

“In regard to hockey, I often find most high-level players are respectful, taking the approach of ‘if you can play, you can play.’ Regarding engineering, I have found it to be an open environment too and for me it is great to work in such a diverse office with the Air Force and at RIT,” she said.

While their day jobs provide incredible talking points, hockey is still on the forefront now that they have the opportunity to play professionally.

“I think what’s been awesome is that I have gotten to play hockey in Austria, I was able to play hockey in Finland, but when I came home I didn’t think playing hockey professionally here would be something I could do. The CWHL has given me that opportunity,” Brown said.

Rackleff echoed that sentiment.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to play at the highest level of professional women’s hockey while at the same time working in my field of engineering with the Air Force to make a difference for the USA. Opportunities for women in hockey and engineering is growing and I’m so happy to take witness and be a part of it,” Rackleff stated.

Brown and Rackleff are both now looking forward to the upcoming 2018-19 season. They’ve been prepping almost every day with the same goal in mind: opening night in October.

“It’s fun to train and all that, but there’s nothing better than being on the ice,” Brown said of her offseason workouts. “I think I’m excited to see where our team ends up and see what we can do this year. I think we have some exciting young players and a lot of people are working really hard.”