• Homer High School junior to compete in national hockey finals next month
By Sean Pearson
If you’ve ever attended any high school sporting events, you know that the singing of the national anthem before each game is not taken lightly. Often, the school’s choir, or an individual student is chosen to perform. Sometimes that student is also an athlete, playing for one of the participating teams.
Still, when Homer junior Hannah Baird shares her vocal talents at Kevin Bell Arena before high school hockey games, it’s a bit surprising to watch her long, blond hair escape from the confines of her hockey helmet as she takes the microphone.
The beauty of Baird’s singing voice is inarguable. She was named first-chair alto at State Honors Choir this year, and traveled to New York City in February to sing at Carnegie Hall as part of an international honors choir. But, when the hockey mask goes on, the gloves come off.
Well — actually, that’s when the hockey gloves go on.
Baird, daughter of Steve Baird and Mary McCarty, also skates for the Tier 1 Girls’ 19 and under competitive team. The Anchorage-based All-Stars recently won the Pacific Regions Tournament, where Hannah played first-line defense for the entire tournament. The team will now travel to compete in the National Finals next month.
Hannah got her hockey legs early in life, recruited at age four by hockey coach Kevin Bell.
“I started playing because Coach Bell cornered my family and roped us into it,” Baird fondly recalled. “I wanted to play because of my older brother, and found that I really enjoyed it.”
Steve Baird said his daughter was heavily influenced by Bell, who coached her for several years and had a huge influence on her.
“He coached me for all my younger years,” Hannah said. “Without him, I never would have started playing, and a huge part of my life never would have existed.”
The younger Baird said she likes the speed of play in hockey more than anything.
“It is a game of flow and movement that is unmatched by any other sport,” she explained.
Being female in such a male-dominated sport wasn’t always easy. But the family credits the support of the Homer Hockey Association, as well as coaches Bell, Jim Brown and Buck Laukitis, for her continued success.
“I’ve had a bit of hassle from other people for being a dedicated girl hockey player, but never from my teammates,” Baird said. “They have always treated me as just another player.”
That was not always the case when facing coaches.
“I’ve had a few coaches that tried to kick me off the team for simply being a girl,” she said. “I’m incredibly proud of myself for sticking with hockey, regardless of gender discrimination.”
Hannah said she also recognizes and appreciates that Homer hockey is much more accepting of girls than most other places.
“If a girl wants to play what is generally regarded as a boy’s sport, why not?” she asked. “Athletes are athletes.”
And, while Hannah said she has always received nothing but support from her parents, that doesn’t mean they don’t worry.
“I obviously had — and still have — concerns about her playing hockey, especially on the varsity team, where most of the boys outweigh her by a fair amount,” Steve Baird said. “However, she’s been learning how to properly check and be checked since fifth grade, she’s obviously an excellent skater and they wear lots of protective gear.”
With boys often reaching puberty at a later age, it’s easy to understand how size and weight factor into the hockey equation. But Hannah remains unfazed.
In fact, she recalled how, one year, almost every girl dropped out of boys’ hockey and joined the girls’ team.
“That year, I noticed I was different,” she said. “I didn’t want to leave the players I had grown up alongside.”
Dad Steve said he is extremely proud that she stuck with it through some of the harder times.
“Hannah works hard at the things she loves, and she’s a very good student,” he said. “We definitely have expectations of her as parents, but we try not to push her too hard; she does that herself. She’s extremely self-motivated.”
Hannah said she is very thankful for all the support her parents and have given her over the years.
“I’d never be able to do anything without their support,” she said. “And every single coach I’ve had throughout the years has taught me something different that has helped me.”
Hannah said she feels incredibly lucky to be able to play on the All-Star team, as it gives her the opportunity to play with some of the best girl hockey players in the nation.
“I’m proud to play alongside such dedicated athletes, and glad I get to share my love of the game with them as we head to nationals,” she said.
Hannah said she is also very happy that hockey and singing don’t conflict all that much.
“They are the two huge passions of my life, and I could never choose one over the other,” she said. “Luckily I haven’t had to, and hopefully never will.”
As a junior, Hannah has another year to share both her hockey and singing talents, and plans to keep doing both for as long as she can.
“I can’t imagine life without hockey,” she explained. “I love the sport too much to ever let it go.”
And, whether her life takes a direction toward college hockey or club hockey, she plans to never quit.
“Quitting hockey has never been an option for me. I could never quit playing something that makes me so happy.”
Comments are closed