The Stadium Series game at Navy Memorial Stadium on Saturday not only showcased a game between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs, but served as a stop on a long victory lap for some of the Olympic gold medal winners in PyeongChang.
For Haley Skarupa, a member of the women’s U.S. hockey team, the stop was extra special, as she was born in D.C. and grew up in Rockville.
“I was going to come back and watch this game regardless. My family and friends are here. It’s awesome to be back here with my teammates,” she said before the game, where she and her team were honored for their heroics in PyeongChang.
Skarupa, 24, is a Capitals fan and even used to train with former Caps captain and Potomac native Jeff Halpern.
“We both skated with the same power skating coach, Wendy Marco in Cold Rush, and then he became a coach there,” Skarupa said. “He kinda helped coach me too. And he’s just obviously a great role model for this area. He did so well. He’s such a nice guy and always gives back to the DC-Maryland area.”
Since Skarupa is from the area, her team looked to her for advice on spots to tour in D.C. So she brought them to Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken, a shop owned by Halpern.
“Thanks for bringing the gang to Astro. Congrats on the Gold!” Halpern tweeted to her Saturday morning.
Skarupa also spoke about hockey in Maryland and the growth of the sport, especially among the women.
“The sport has certainly come a long way in this area. When I started playing, it was, kinda you play boys hockey until you’re in high school or something. And now there are so many young girls teams in the area. Just to show, the clinic yesterday [featuring Team USA and held at the Capitals’ Ballston, Va., training facility] had over 200 girls registered from the DMV area, which was awesome.”
Though Skarupa is positive about the direction of women’s hockey, especially in the region, she’s never shied away from playing against men. A couple of years ago, she suited up for Le Peu at the annual Leap Towards A Cure hockey tournament and cancer research fundraiser at The Gardens Ice House, in Laurel. Only one other female was playing in the higher level.
“I love playing with the boys. They challenge you. They’re physical, fast, and they’re ruthless. I played till I was like 12 years old with the boys and obviously against my brother and his friends out in the driveway growing up. Getting beat up by the boys really helps you in the long run. I had fun with it. It’s always a challenge to prove the boys wrong. It’s always a good feeling, too.”
Since she’s returned from South Korea, Skarupa says many people she used to know are reaching out to her, including classmates and teachers.
“So many people from home were following and watching. The support that we received from them is unbelievable.”