THE ICEBREAKER

Melissa Lavinson, with daughter Bergen Kane, will play for the lobbyists Thursday.
Melissa Lavinson, with daughter Bergen Kane, will play for the lobbyists Thursday.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

The halls of Congress now contain more than enough women to field a credible softball team or two. And yet when lawmakers meet lobbyists at Verizon Center for the Congressional Hockey Challenge on Thursday night, there will be only one lady on skates.

But, you know, that's basically one more lady than we would have expected, so we'll cheer instead of fuss.

"Am I the only woman?" said Melissa Lavinson, a defense player on the federal lobbyists' roster, with mild surprise when we called. "Okaaayyy!"

No big deal for her, but then the New Jersey native has been playing for years. She was on her high school girls' ice hockey team and played it as a club sport at Hamilton College. Now 41, she competes with a local women's team that played a tournament in Vegas.

For the third-annual charity fundraising match, benefiting the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, she'll be taking on players such as Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) - all dudes. Will having a female player on the ice change the dynamic?

"Everyone's suited up out there," Lavinson said. "You're just a player."

Indeed. "She's not afraid to throw elbows in the corners," said Jeff Kimball, a health-care lobbyist and organizer of the challenge, who's been watching her at practice. His team recruited Lavinson because "word travels pretty quick in Washington when someone's good in a sport."

Other changes for this year's game: The lawmakers' team stalwart Pat Murphy is gone, having lost his election. And this year the team will welcome its first GOP congressmen to the ice - newly elected Reps. Larry Bucshon (Ind.) and Pat Meehan (Pa.). (Yes, seems surprising, but look at where ice hockey is played - New England, Minnesota, mostly Democratic strongholds.)

Er, what's up with slightly built goalie Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) being listed on the roster at 6-5 and 235 pounds? "Apparently he and Jose Canseco have the same trainer," joked Kimball.


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