Skyview's Ginny Berg moves the ball during a game earlier this month.
Photo by Jeff Helminiak
After Ginny Berg went to a learn-to-skate class when she was 7, she told her parents, Randy and Karen Berg, that she wanted to play hockey.
"My initial reaction was that I didn't think girls should play hockey," said Karen, who had figure skating in mind for her daughter. "She proved me wrong."
Berg, a senior at Skyview High School, has developed into such a good hockey player that last winter she played at the North American Hockey Academy in Stowe, Vt.
After dealing with homesickness before the holidays, Berg surged after the holidays. The defender ended up totaling three goals and 25 assists for NAHA's Tier I team, which finished the season with a 40-12-10 record.
Berg, a 4.0 student in line to be Skyview's valedictorian, said she missed out on getting scholarships to the schools she wanted due to homesickness.
"When I should have been looking at colleges, I wasn't playing good," Berg said. "I wasn't capable of doing much of anything."
With the homesickness out of the way, Berg plans to return to NAHA next winter to pursue a spot on a women's college hockey team.
Berg started her hockey career in the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association playing mostly against boys.
Pete Iverson, who coached some of Berg's KPHA teams and also coached Berg at Skyview, said Berg did not have a problem fitting in with the boys.
"The kids today are used to having girls play with the boys," Iverson said. "It's not like when I was a kid. It's no big deal.
"I never saw anybody take an extra shot at her because she was a girl."
Berg played with the all-girls Anchorage Alaska Firebirds from seventh grade through her sophomore year, but she always kept playing with boys, too, because of what it did for her game.
"I liked playing with the guys more because they were so much more aggressive and intense," Berg said. "I found that when I played with the girls, I went down a level of play, especially at a young age."
As Berg got older and got more exposure, she started to impress scouts and coaches. Karen Berg said that after former University of Alaska Anchorage men's hockey coach Dean Talafous saw Berg play as a freshman, he said that Berg would one day get a full ride playing college hockey.
Berg made Skyview's boys varsity team as a freshman and fit right in with the defense.
"The Skyview guys were always really nice," Berg said. "Some guys can be real jerks, but at Skyview that wasn't the case."
Iverson said Berg was a hard worker for the Panthers. He said Berg learned to use her head rather than her physical gifts while playing with high school boys.
"The boys weighed a lot more than she did, but she realized she didn't have to knock them down to knock the puck away," Iverson said.
As a junior, Berg also played for an all-girls team called Team Alaska, allowing her to get even more exposure at tournaments in the Lower 48.
Berg had always shied away from attending a prep school in the Lower 48 to further her hockey career because she wasn't prepared to totally leave behind her high school years at Skyview.
An Anchorage friend told Berg about NAHA, which would allow her to focus solely on hockey and school from October to early March. NAHA also gave Berg the option of staying enrolled at Skyview.
"It was very important to me that I could come home and graduate with my senior class," Berg said.
She said Skyview didn't have to go along with the NAHA plan, but she is grateful to both the school and its teachers for making it possible for her to attend NAHA and stay enrolled at Skyview.
Going to NAHA also made it possible for Berg to come back to Skyview and play soccer this spring for the Panthers. Berg played her first organized soccer in seventh grade.
"It came pretty naturally to me," she said. "It was really easy to adjust to after playing hockey."
Berg had a solid season for Skyview this year, scoring two or more goals in four of the Panthers' games, but Skyview came up just short of the region tournament for the first time in Berg's career.
"Whenever I would say, 'Ginny, when are you going to score?' she'd say, 'Coach, in the next 10 minutes,'" Skyview soccer coach Ronnie Kier said. "Sure enough, every time she'd find a way to score.
"It was a privilege to work with her. As a first-year coach, she's the type of player you dream of getting."
Berg, who also is involved with the National Honors Society and the Interact Club at Skyview, also gets compliments from Skyview's teachers.
"She's highly intelligent," said Skyview teacher Rob Sparks, who had Berg in government and world history. "She likes to understand the material more than just memorizing it.
"She's got a great sense of humor and she's modest and humble. She just comes across really well."
Berg, who enjoys fishing, camping and riding horses in her spare time, said she would like to go into the medical field.
Karen Berg said she hopes her daughter can be an example to other girls thinking of playing hockey. She said Ginny got a lot of inspiration from Soldotna High School graduate Kris Romberg, who played for Dartmouth.
"That was her idol what made her think she could play hockey, what made her think about Ivy League schools," Karen said. "If girls are interested, there is definitely an opportunity for them."
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