Abby Roque competes against Canada during the My Why Tour on Oct. 22, 2021 in Allentown, Pa.
Her last name is pronounced like “rock,” and she probably had to be one at times as a girl trying to navigate the mostly boys world as a youth hockey player growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
Abby Roque didn’t know she was doing anything special at the time, however. After all, her dad, Jim Roque, was then a college hockey coach, and she spent a lot of time with him.
“So, I basically lived at the rink 18 out of the 24 hours a day sometimes if he had a game,” she Roque said, “and I would not leave until he did.”
If hockey seemed natural to her back then, what the 24-year-old is attempting to do now would be unprecedented if she’s successful. Roque, a member of the Wahnapitae First Nation, is seeking to become the first Native American woman to play hockey for the U.S. in the Winter Olympic Games. The U.S. team for Beijing will be named in early 2022.
“I’m the only BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and person of color) on this national team,” said Roque, a forward, adding that she’s “proud of being indigenous and where I come from.”
In October, Roque was one of 28 players who traveled to Blaine, Minnesota, to enter a pre-Olympic residency with the U.S. team. Players from that group are training together while taking part in the My Why Tour, a nine-game series against Canada, all with the goal of seeing their names on the final list of 23 who will compete in Beijing.
This is Roque’s first time in residency with the team.
“So, it’s been great being here in Blaine, Minnesota, training with all of the girls and just getting to see what it’s all about and just how hard we’re working up until this Olympic Games,” she said. “Obviously, I wasn’t at these last Olympics like these girls were, so for me, it’s a little different.”
Roque has always stood out on the ice. On NBC’s “Today” show recently, she talked about growing up with the game since she began skating on a backyard rink that Jim — now a scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs — built.
“I just always wanted to be like my dad,” Roque told Today. “People called me a rink rat. I think it was kind of in my blood, but it was a passion for me that I just wanted to be a part of.”
There weren’t many opportunities for girls to play the game when Roque was rising through the ranks, so she did what she had to: play with the guys.