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Women of winter ... with attitude

They come to this suburban hockey rink every Sunday night. They are engineers, sales managers, company vice presidents, and medical professionals.

They are also women, and have decided somewhat late in life to become ice hockey players.

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It's a trend picking up speed across the US. A year ago Team USA defeated Team Canada to earn the first Olympic gold medal ever awarded in women's ice hockey. Since that time, more women than ever have decided to lace up the skates, grab a stick and puck, and take to the ice.

Not young girls, not college students, but women.

"I was a person who wanted to play when I was four years old and my mother told me that hockey was not a chick thing to do," explains Michelle Snowdon of Bedford, N.H. "She wanted me to do figure skating. But if I could be a professional hockey player, I would."

Ms. Snowdon plays on the Lightning team, part of the Hockey Academy - a company that organizes amateur leagues across New England. The team is co-ed, and Snowdon is actually a better skater than a handful of men on the squad.

According to USA Hockey in Colorado Springs, Colo., the gold medal the women took home from Nagano has meant gold for amateur leagues everywhere. In the past year, the number of women playing hockey in the US has increased by 160 percent.

"Anyone can start this sport," explains Aimee Accinno between shifts at a recent game. The sales manager for Bell Atlantic has been playing for just four months. "And the guys are great. They are always willing to give me pointers. I think this is something I'll be doing for a long time."

She's not alone.

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"Women are really taking up an interest," says the Hockey Academy's Shawn Hutcheon.

"All ages, playing with the men. They have a lot of fun."

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