Tarasai Karega isn't the only child who was turned on to hockey by Disney's 1992 film, "The Mighty Ducks." But as a young African-American girl growing up in Detroit, it wasn't Charlie Conway or Adam Banks -- the team's two fictional star players -- that she emulated.
"Jesse [Hall, played by actor Brandon Adams] stood out to me because he was the only black kid on the team," Karega said. "I'd tell my mom I wanted to play hockey and she did some research on organizations in Detroit."
It was a pivotal, if unlikely, turning point for an important hockey ambassador.
Often the only African-American female player on her teams growing up, Tarasai Karega persevered to win a national title and now mentors youth through Ed Snider's foundation. (Photo: Tarasai Karega)
Karega began playing with the Detroit Dragons of the Detroit Hockey Association, an organization affiliated with the NHL's Hockey is for Everyone program. Later, as a star at Cranbrook-Kingswood School in suburban Bloomfield Hills, MI, she was named Michigan's Ms. Hockey in 2005 and scored the game-tying goal and double-overtime winner in the clinching game of the state championship tournament.
From there, Karega enjoyed a standout career at Amherst College, where she was named first-team All-NESCAC as a sophomore and led the school to its first NCAA Division III women's national championship in her senior year. She graduated with a 3.43 grade-point average and a desire to impart the on- and off-ice skills she developed through hockey.
"I've played since I was nine, and it's taught me how to manage various aspects of my life," Karega said. "Time management is a big aspect of what I do, and playing hockey taught me that."
Since graduating in 2009, Karega has been on a mission to share her love for hockey. She started doing that through her work with the Alaska Diversity Hockey Camp, a Wasilla-based camp founded by Scott Gomez and featuring DHA president Will McCants as well as Willie O'Ree, the man who famously broke the NHL color barrier with the Boston Bruins in 1958.