They are impervious to the cold, oblivious that midnight is fast approaching, and blithely indifferent to the fact that their peers at Dartmouth College's Amos Tuck School of Business are studying diligently for exams. They have arrived at James W. Campion Municipal Rink, two miles from campus, and as the bantams and mites of the Hanover ( N.H.) Youth Hockey League conclude a practice, they lace up their skates, retape their sticks and maneuver into their padding before heading onto the ice.
Call them the Mighty Tucks, this crew of 70-plus women—representing more than half of the graduate school's female enrollment—who temper their pursuit of their M.B.A.'s by splitting into equally matched teams and making like Cammi Granato several nights a week. "At other business schools women seem much more divided," says Jen Moyer, a second-year student and intramural league captain for one of the three Tuck's women's teams. "Here, we bond through hockey."
"Hockey combines teamwork with competitiveness, which is what we're exposed to day to day in the classroom," says co-captain Victoria Schwartz. "Also, I think business schools attract a particular type of woman. Most of us played a varsity sport in college and like to try new pursuits." Adds the school's dean, Paul Danos, "Tuck is a highly personal place, and everyone knows everyone else, so when the majority of the women here play one sport together, it's an extension of that community spirit."
The skill level runs the gamut from those who captained varsity hockey teams as undergraduates to novices whose skating technique resembles Mick Jagger doing his devil strut. During a practice early in the season, after a valiant yet ultimately futile effort to explain the niceties of line changes, Nikki Peck, co-captain, condensed her instructions to a single call-to-action catch-phrase: "Tired legs through the door, fresh legs over the boards."
Yet for all the icing that goes uncalled and all the slap shots that fail to get airborne, the practices are intense and the players are fiercely serious about improving their skills. "We're out here to have fun, but no one takes it lightly," says Schwartz between shifts. "By the end of the season, we expect to be a lot better, both individually and as a unit." The 12-game season usually opens with a scrimmage against one of Tuck's men's teams (almost 50% of the male M.B.A. students also play hockey), includes a series of games against undergrad sororities and teams from Dartmouth's two other professional schools, and culminates in February with a weekend-long tournament against teams from Harvard, Yale, Cornell and other business schools from the U.S. and Canada.
The games are noticeably free of violence. Two years ago one student broke a collarbone and last year a woman had a concussion after colliding with a coach, but "most of our bumps and bruises occur when we trip over each other by accident," says Moyer. "Whenever someone falls down, the first thing you hear is an opposing player saying, 'I'm sorry.' It's basically a noncontact sport, but when we play other business schools, it can get a little rough."
A bigger hazard, though, lies in convincing friends and relatives that playing hockey is not as far out an idea as it sounds. "I used to tell my mom I was going to the rink for figure skating practice. But the fact is there's no way any of us could be talked out of playing hockey," says Schwartz. "At least not as long as we still have all our teeth."