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Meredith Ostrander plays in the top womens hockey league in the world for the best team in that league. Her teammates and competitors include many Olympic players. Her season runs from September until April, every bit as long and grueling as the all-mens National Hockey League.

Courtesy Meredith Ostrander
Meredith Ostrander '02

Still, for all her efforts on the ice Ostrander earns an annual sum of exactly $0. To support herself she works full-time in the logistics and compliance department of a chemical distribution company in Toronto, leaving three or four times a week to practice or play hockey from 6 to 11 p.m. If Ostrander were a man, after graduation shed likely have moved to Europe, where hockey players can earn more than $100,000 a year. Instead, the 28-year-old Canadian says, I even have to pay for my own equipment.

This is how it goes in the seven-year-old National Womens Hockey League, which is drawing some of the best womens hockey players in the world. The NWHL has thirteen teamstwelve in Canada and one in Minnesotabut it hasnt been able to land a broadcast deal or major corporate funding. Ostranders team, the Brampton Thunder, plays in a 6,000-seat stadium just outside Toronto. A typical regular-season game draws a crowd of 100.

It helps some, Ostrander says, that the attendees are mainly young girls who play hockey and come running up after the game to ask for her autograph. Still, she says, its very disheartening.

So why do it? Its about the camaraderie and companionship, she says. Two of Ostranders former Brown teammates Kristy Zamora 02 and Kathleen Kauth 01are now on the Thunder. Ostrander worked defense and was known for having the teams hardest slap shot, yet surprisingly soft and sensitive hands. Zamora, the Bears co-captain in her senior year, ended her Brown career with a total of 72 goals and 48 assists for 120 points, ranking her eleventh on Browns all-time leading scorer list. Meanwhile, Kauth, who graduated a year ahead of Ostrander and hails from Saratoga Springs, New York, racked up 108 points in her four years at Brown. She also played on the 2006 U.S. Olympic team, earning a bronze medal. Weve all been playing together for close to nine years now, says Ostrander. At this point, we pretty much know each other inside and out.

This year the Thunder finished third in the NWHLs Central division. All the teams in the league go to the playoffs, and it was in this final round of games that, as the teams Web site puts it, the competition wound up Thunder struck. In April the Thunder won a best-of-three series against the Mississauga Aeros to clinch the division championship largely by employing a rope-a-dope strategy in which they exhausted the Aeros early in the games and then came back stronger than ever in the third period.

Then it was onto a resounding 4-0 victory over the Montreal Axion with Zamora scoring the game winner. All the same, there was hardly any press coverage, and Ostrander had to go right back to work the next day. I plan to keep on doing this until my body gives out or I stop having fun, she says. It helps to keep me out of trouble.

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