Meet Abbey Levy, rising Jewish star in the brand new Professional Women’s Hockey League
New York goalie Abigail Levy (39) skates back to her net during the PWHL New York versus Montreal game on January 16, 2024, at Place Bell in Laval, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire)

By Reyna Gobel
January 31, 2024

(JTA) — One of Abigail Levy’s most powerful Jewish memories comes from a family Passover celebration when she was a child. In keeping with the tradition of searching for the afikomen, someone hid a broken piece of matzah and set her and the other children loose to find it.

“It got a little heated,” she recalled. “I ended up with a giant welt on my forehead.”

Levy’s competitive spirit then foreshadowed her career today, including her willingness to take lumps in pursuit of a win: She’s a professional ice hockey player, a goaltender in the brand-new Professional Women’s Hockey League, which took the ice for the first time on Jan. 1.

Levy is the backup goalie for PWHL New York, one of six teams in the new league, which like the others is named for the city where it plays. It’s an outcome that Levy, 23, could not have imagined while growing up in Congers, New York, about an hour north of the city in Rockland County.

“I never knew girls played hockey,” she said during a practice this week.

Her journey to the sport began as a spectator, watching her brother play. But by the time she was 10, Levy wanted in on the action. She asked her father Justin if she could join a team, and he said yes without hesitation.

Levy first played on boys’ teams in the New York City area. When she was 12, she met her best friend, Emma Kee, at hockey camp, and the pair made the trek to Minnesota to attend Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, a boarding school known for its hockey program.

Levy said her dad would visit on weekends, bringing his New York Jewish humor with him. “My dad is the biggest jokester on the planet,” she said. Still, being away from home didn’t come easy to Levy.

“When I was away from home in Minnesota for prep school, I realized life is not all about hockey, it’s about who’s around you, too,” she said. “I had to find a family within this group in order to play my best, and I know that everyone else around me has to do the same thing. Because all these girls are living away from home.”

Levy has carried the importance of family — real and chosen — with her ever since.

She spent her first two years of college playing for Minnesota State University, then transferred to Boston College. There, she was just a few hours away from Jewish holiday celebrations with her family, including her four siblings. The experience remains the strongest element of her Jewish identity.

“My parents definitely tried to teach me around the holidays,” she said. “But I think as a kid I was a little brat sometimes. I definitely just stuck with hockey and that was probably always on my mind. And now growing up, I’ll probably have to go back and look more into the religion.”

Levy set program records at both schools she attended. Playing for Boston College as a graduate student in 2022-2023, Levy was a semifinalist for the National Goalie of the Year award, and her .947 save percentage was the second-best in the country and set a single-season record at the school.

Levy was the third-string goalie on the U.S. Women’s National Team that won the gold medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s 2023 Women’s World Championship, though she did not appear in a game during the tournament.

When New York recruited Levy to join their roster ahead of the 2024 season, it was as much for for her reputation as an exemplary teammate as it was her skill on the ice.

“We like the person she is. We like the way that she takes care of herself and takes care of her teammates,” New York general manager Pascal Daoust told JTA. Levy was selected 64th overall in the 11th round of the PWHL draft in September and signed a one-year contract.

“There’s nothing to manage with her,” Daoust said. “We all know that goalies have their very own world or routine,” but Levy takes time to process feedback and listen as much as she talks, he added.

Daoust also hailed Levy’s consistency at the net.

“Sometimes a goalie is great one hour and not the next,” Daoust said. “You’re left to wonder, who’s going to be in the net?” But when Levy allows a goal, she recovers right away, he said.

As a teammate, Levy is known for her relaxed and supportive demeanor.

“Abbey is a very calm and chill presence in the dressing room. Nothing really fazes her,” said Lindsey Post, a fellow goaltender on the New York team. “She’s fun to be around. When we’re in the gym together, we’re always laughing. Same with on the ice, so she’s just a good goalie partner to have. We like to support each other all around along this road.”

Levy said building relationships with her teammates off the rink is critical to their success on it.

“I understand how to be friends with women, how we work, and how to push someone to do their best,” she said. “I know that will make our team so much better, because women care about things outside of the rink, as well as in the rink.”

“It’s just the little things on the ice like being valued and someone coming up to you and going out of their way and saying, ‘hey, you did great there,’” Levy continued. “And then off ice, hanging out together and inviting each other out to things.”

Playing in New York, Levy knows she’s fortunate to be close to her family. But for her teammates — many of whom hail from Canada — it can be isolating to play so far from home.

“Regardless of your age, you still need that family and support,” she said. “I get to go home every day to my family in New York. But some of these girls, they don’t. They live alone. So it’s just being that person to say, ‘how are you doing today?’ Or, ‘hey, nice shot.’ I think this is a  huge part of hockey.”

Alex Carpenter, a forward who serves as the team’s alternate captain, also praised Levy for her presence on the squad.

“She’s not your stereotypical goalie,” Carpenter told JTA. “She’s pretty relaxed and chill on game days and even practice days. So it’s a lot of fun getting to interact with her more in the professional setting.”

While the PWHL is in its early days, Levy said she appreciates the role she plays as a Jewish athlete, especially as a model for young Jewish girls. There are at least two other Jewish women who play in the league: Boston’s team features defender Kaleigh Fratkin and goalie Aerin Frankel.

“For male athletes, it’s a bit different,” Levy said. “But at least for the women’s game, what I’ve noticed is hockey really is for all of us. Everyone’s very proud.”

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