If you don’t know Rebecca Morse, or Moose as she likes to be called, she is an (NWHL) All-Star defender for the Metropolitan Riveters. She recently completed her fourth season with the team and re-signed to return for a fifth season. Through the ups and downs of playing, advocating, and taking lots of different food adventures she remains humble and keeps moving towards a better future.
The first thing I realized when speaking to Moose was her passion for a lot of things in her life like equality, food, and of course hockey. As someone who is a new fan of NWHL, I can say without a doubt that by doing this interview with her I learned so much about not only her but about the league itself. I honestly feel inspired by her and her message. I hope you feel the same way when you read this.
Without further ado, meet Rebecca “Moose” Morse!
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I’m a professional hockey player for the Metropolitan Riveters of the National Women’s Hockey League. Hockey is my greatest passion and has been for most of my life. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s what motivates me to be my best self. It’s the channel through which I aim to leave my mark on this world.
I’ve been balancing my career as a pro athlete with a full-time marketing career for more than four years now. Recently, I started coaching for a youth hockey club in New Jersey. I also serve as the Marketing Director for the club and its home rinks.
The most rewarding aspect of being a pro hockey player and a coach is having the opportunity to make a direct impact on the next generation of players, as well as my community. Above all, I hope to leave the sport better than I found it.
As the landscape continues to evolve, I find myself exploring opportunities to make hockey more accessible to EVERYONE—people of all genders, races, income levels, sexual orientations, those with disabilities, etc. We still have a long way to go as a sport in terms of championing diversity, equity, and inclusion. That’s why I’m on a mission to help change hockey culture by using my platform to share my experiences as a woman, as a lesbian, as someone who has battled mental health issues, and as an ally to the BIPOC community.
Who or what inspired you to play hockey?
Growing up in New Jersey, I had a neighbor who played street hockey and was a big NJ Devils fan. I lived on a cul-de-sac with a lot of kids around my age in the neighboring houses. We could all be found playing outside almost every day. This one neighbor in particular introduced the sport to me and my brother. His passion was infectious. We immediately understood where it came from after picking up a stick for the first time and watching a Devils game on TV. My brother and I started playing roller hockey in our cul-de-sac religiously, often gathering a group of friends and other kids on our block to join.
Eventually, we started taking skating lessons on the ice and attending clinics in full gear. Then, we joined a co-ed in-house league at a local rink. My brother moved on to travel hockey for mites, while I continued to focus on my primary sport, soccer. Part of the reason why I didn’t join a travel team is because I didn’t realize that girls played hockey competitively. The number of all-girls travel teams was very limited in NJ at the time. I didn’t mind playing with the boys, but I was cut from the first and only boys’ team that I tried out for. Consequently, I resorted to playing roller hockey in my cul-de-sac and being a rink rat who sat on the sidelines watching my brother and his team play.
One day I decided that I couldn’t take it anymore. I asked my dad to sign me up for tryouts for a girls’ team. It was a Tier II U19 team, and I was only 10 or 11 years old at the time. I can’t even remember whether there were tryouts or if everyone just made the team, but I joined nonetheless. Although I played with girls much older than me, being on a travel team allowed me to fall even more in love with the game.
What does an average day look like for you during the season? How does it look right now?
In the previous four seasons, an average day would look like the following: wake up, commute about an hour to work, work a full day, commute about an hour to the rink, get a workout in, practice with my team, commute home, eat a late dinner, and go to bed. On days that we didn’t practice or I didn’t have time to get a workout in before practice, I would work out at my local gym after work.
Because I’m now coaching and working from home, this season will look a little different. On practice days, I’ll wake up, do some marketing work from home, coach in the morning, afternoon, or evening depending on my schedule for the day, commute to the rink, work out with my team, practice with my team, commute home, eat a late dinner, and go to bed. I’ll also have the flexibility to work out during the day at my local gym.
Do you have any game day routines or superstitions? Like certain things you have to do or eat before games?
I always drink coffee the morning of a game. My go-to meals include avocado toast in the morning and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the rink. I’m also a huge fan of chicken parm the night before a game or for a pre-game meal.
When getting dressed, I always put my equipment on in the same order: jill, skate socks, shin pads, hockey socks, pants, skates, sock tape, shoulder pads, jersey, elbow pads, helmet, gloves, and stick. In terms of two-piece equipment, I always put the left side on before the right. When I pack up my gear or hang it up to dry, I always do so the same exact way with everything in the appropriate place in my bag or stall. Lastly, I always tape my stick with white tape on the blade (always taped the same way) and pride tape on the top.
For off-ice warm-ups, I always play soccer with my teammates. We make it competitive by setting a goal for how many touches we get in the air.
For on-ice warm-ups, I always stretch in the exact same spot. In addition, I always start in the same spot or line for each drill.
Some things change from season to season, such as the pregame songs I listen to and little habits like where I place my stick along the wall prior to getting on the ice.
What has been your greatest moment in hockey so far?
My greatest moment in hockey was winning the Isobel Cup in 2018. It was an incredible feeling to win a championship in my home state of New Jersey and be able to share the moment with family and friends. We had a special team that year, and I’ll always look back fondly on the memories that were made.
The Riveters’ second game of the 2019-2020 season in Minnesota was a close second. We got blown out by the Whitecaps the night before and bounced back the next day to win Game 2 in overtime. I scored the game-winning goal for our first win of the season. It was probably the biggest goal I’ve scored in my career, and I think it set the tone for our team for the rest of the season. We developed an identity as a resilient team.
I’d also say that the entire 2020-2021 season was a highlight because it was the first NWHL season in which I made the line-up for every game. I’ll come back to this later.
What do you feel has been the hardest thing to overcome in your career so far?
I was originally signed by the Riveters as a practice player in 2016. I served in this role for an entire season and ended up playing in several games due to injuries that occurred within our lineup. However, even when I did get the chance to suit up for a game and represent my team, I didn’t get much ice-time. If you’ve been in this position before, you understand that it can be difficult to get into a rhythm or a flow state—that state during a game where you are playing totally free. Admittedly, I struggled with this. I wasn’t playing to my potential, and it caused me to lose confidence. At first, I thought I belonged on the team and that I was just as good as most of my teammates. I was somewhat satisfied because I had expected to not play in any games. After all, that’s basically what I signed up for as a practice player.
I re-signed with the Riveters the following offseason—this time as a full-time, rostered player. Unfortunately, however, my role on the team that second season didn’t really change. Eventually, I started to believe that I was in this position because it’s where I deserved to be. I thought that most of my teammates were better than me and that the best way for me to contribute to the team was by being a reliable, hard-working teammate who should only play when called upon. Let me be clear that I had never been in this position before. Throughout my hockey career, I had always been one of the best defenders and one of the best overall players on my teams—contributing significantly to team success while experiencing individual success as well. In other words, this utility player role was new to me. It required me to reinvent myself by becoming a better teammate. Instead of just trying to make myself better, my job became to push my teammates in practice. I worked harder in practice than I ever had before that. Part of the reason was because I had something to prove, but the other part was due to a shift in purpose. If I was working this hard without seeing results, I decided that the way I was going to contribute to my team was by making my teammates better. Many of my teammates took notice, which was rewarding in and of itself. I wanted them to think: “if Moose is working this hard and she isn’t even seeing much ice-time in games, I need to step it up.” I tried to become my own version of the best and hardest working teammates that I had played with throughout my career.
My role as a utility player persisted for a third season, but that year I played mostly forward, a position that was largely foreign to me prior to playing pro. Despite being more of an offensive defender who acted like a fourth forward at times, I was always a defender at heart. Learning a new position was still extremely challenging. You can see the whole ice on defense. The play is often in front of you, so you can see it develop and you have a lot more time and space to make decisions with the puck. Playing forward actually helped me become a better hockey player though. I gained a deeper understanding of the game and improved my speed and agility. Switching back and forth between defense and forward was a whole different challenge. After playing forward consistently for a while, I felt like I had almost forgotten how to skate backward. Essentially, I went from feeling lost at forward to feeling lost back on defense—the position I had previously felt most comfortable at throughout my career. I feared that I was losing my defensive touch.
Anyway, at the start of that season, I felt optimistic about the future and my role on the team. We had a new coach, so I thought there was a good chance he’d see what I could do and give me more ice-time than I had gotten in the past. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Our season began with two away games in Minnesota. I made the lineup for the first game. Although we lost, I felt like I had a pretty strong game. I played with speed, forechecked hard, and made a lot of good decisions. Apparently, my coach didn’t feel the same way because he took me out of the lineup for the second game. He broke the news to me right after the first game when I was still in the locker room getting undressed. He pulled me outside of the locker room and told me that another player was in for the next game, which meant that I was out. I was extremely confused because here I was, a veteran with a couple of seasons under my belt who had paid my dues and improved as a player. Why did he choose me as the one player who had traveled with the team that weekend to sit out for the second game? Did he watch the same game? I was flying on the ice, I had chances, and I forced a lot of turnovers! I thought for sure that I’d be in the lineup again.
Anyway, when I returned to the locker room, I got undressed slowly and went into the shower. I was in the shower alone at first, which was intentional because I didn’t want to be around anyone, to be honest. I was embarrassed and ashamed. Eventually, the captain of my team (Shelly Picard) joined me in the shower. That’s when I broke down and started crying. She could see the pain and disappointment on my face, and she knew the cause of it. Like a good leader, she said “Moose, please don’t get too down on yourself. There’s a lot of season left and we need you. You belong on this team and you’ll get another opportunity.” I thanked her even though I didn’t want to hear it at the time. Later, I went back to the hotel and called my mom—crying again. I wanted to leave Minnesota. I didn’t even want to stay and watch the second game. I even thought about quitting. If this was a sign of what was to come this season, why waste my time, right? Wrong. I kept replaying what my captain had said in the shower over and over again. The remainder of the weekend, multiple teammates came up to me and told me that they thought I deserved to be in the lineup. This is really what kept me going. I knew that I couldn’t let my team down, but most of all, I couldn’t let myself down. I couldn’t quit no matter how badly I was hurting. That’s not who I am, and I had made a commitment to my team. I was determined to uphold this commitment and bounce back. The fire inside me was not out yet. I still had a lot more to give. I wasn’t going to stop until I had accomplished all I had set out to accomplish.
After my 3rd season concluded, I still had a lot left to prove. I had secured a more consistent spot in the lineup, but I didn’t play in every game. This just didn’t sit well with me because I could feel myself working harder, getting better, and making more of an impact when I was given the chance. A lot changed that offseason, though.
Our roster at the start of my fourth season (this past season) looked completely different and very new. Initially, we only had two returning players—myself and our captain, Madison Packer. A lot of my teammates were just out of college and/or younger than me. We even had a new head coach again. Before our season officially started, I was named an alternate captain and I volunteered to represent my team as a member of the NWHL Players Association. That’s when the tide started to turn. I developed more confidence because I was finally getting what I felt I deserved all along: a true opportunity to make an impact in the locker room and on the ice. My teammates and coaching staff respected me simply based on the amount of blood, sweat, and tears I had endured. Everyone was relying on me and the only other veteran on the team to show them the ropes. I had a new role and I embraced it wholeheartedly.
Last season, I had a career year. Finally, I made the lineup for every game and I played my natural position, defense. I led all Riveters’ defenders in scoring and I led all NWHL defenders in game-winning goals. I was also a 2020 NWHL All-Star—an honor I never would have imagined receiving in prior seasons. Most importantly, however, I received the 2019-20 NWHL Foundation Award, presented annually to “the players most actively applying the core values of hockey to her community as well as growing and improving hockey culture.” I say “most importantly” because this accomplishment demonstrated my impact off the ice, whereas the others are just stats or accolades for my on-ice performance. Don’t get me wrong, those are nice too, but the main reason I still play competitively is to impact the next generation of hockey players. I could have retired at any point during my four-plus season pro career, especially after facing challenges that I never thought I’d overcome, but I have unfinished business.
How has Covid-19 affected your training and preparing for next season?
Believe it or not, COVID-19 has actually had a positive impact on me as an athlete in many ways. Back in April, I was laid off from my marketing job in Manhattan. My role was cut due to the pandemic and its financial implications for my company. With quarantine and all of this free time on my hands, I was able to pour myself into training and boosting my social media presence. I transitioned my focus toward improving my strength and conditioning, but also building my personal brand and using my platform to affect change. With rinks and gyms closed, I started working out in my apartment or outside—on the grass and in the parking lot—every day. I also took to the street and local roller hockey rinks for hockey-specific training. As a result of the pandemic, I’ve been able to train harder than ever before and channel my energy into hockey-related projects to grow the NWHL and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion across the sport.
What prompted you to become an ally and be so vocal about everything surrounding LGBQT+ and BLM?
I’m a highly empathetic individual. I believe that love and empathy are everything. As a woman in a male-dominated sport, a lesbian, and someone who has struggled with mental health, I tend to be supportive of other marginalized groups. Although these characteristics don’t define me, they have come with their own set of unique challenges—challenges that only someone in my shoes understands. That being said, I try to relate to other marginalized groups that I’m not a part of. While my individual experiences pale in comparison to what the average Black person is confronted with on a daily basis, I can absolutely understand their frustrations with society. I know what it feels like to walk into a room and be outnumbered in terms of gender or sexual orientation. That being said, I’m generally able to “pass” as straight and competent, largely because I’m white and had a privileged upbringing. Many people don’t have that same luxury of passing in certain environments. Those are the people I’m fighting for.
I thought I wasn’t racist before the tragic murder of George Floyd, but I was wrong. I think a lot of people were. I was naive in thinking that there were two sides of the coin: being racist and not being racist. I’ve come to learn that in order to not be racist, you have to be actively anti-racist. This where the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” adage comes into play.
Following the murder of George Floyd, I decided to start educating myself on Black history in the U.S., racial injustice, and race in sport. NWHL journalist Erica Ayala was instrumental early on in this process. I’ve had a relationship with Erica pretty much since I joined the league, but I started following her on social media more closely a few months ago. I paid attention to her posts and the content she was sharing because I knew she’d be a great resource as I grappled with the George Floyd murder. In June, Erica started a new YouTube series called “Social Justice in Women’s Hockey.” Her first guests were Blake Bolden and Allie Thunstrom. Watching this two-part episode is really what led me to begin my education journey. I learned a lot from my peers in women’s hockey, and I was extremely proud of them for stepping up and displaying the courage to start the race conversation. Previously, it just wasn’t something that was talked about in women’s hockey locker rooms. Erica, Blake, and Allie really inspired me to take the next step: put all of my thoughts on racism and social injustice into action.
I also had a transgender teammate with the Riveters, Harrison Browne. I learned a lot from Brownie that season we played together, but I wish I had taken the time to educate myself more on the trans community and trans history when we were teammates. Admittedly, I was ignorant. Many people in the LGBTQ+ community have this way of assuming that they’ve had similar experiences to those in other subgroups within the community—even to those in their own subgroup. When I started educating myself more on the trans subgroup, I realized that I was sorely mistaken. Again, empathy came into play. I felt like I could still relate somewhat as a lesbian, but I had a lot of work to do at the same time in order to gain a better understanding of the unique challenges that many trans people face.
All of this work has inspired me to learn more about the trans community and trans history, but also to be more vocal about my own sexuality. It’s not enough to use pride tape on my stick and post pictures on Instagram with my girlfriend. I want every young person to feel supported and know that hockey is a space for them.
I noticed on your Instagram page you refer to yourself as a foodie and have a page devoted to your adventures. What has been the best food you have ever eaten?
The best food that I’ve ever eaten was probably everything in Italy. I traveled there about a year ago for vacation and to attend a friend’s wedding in neighboring Austria (Janine Weber from CT Whale). I didn’t have one bad meal the entire time in Italy, so it’s difficult to choose one meal or restaurant in particular. This experience opened my eyes to truly authentic Italian cuisine and culture. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to travel across Europe much beyond this region. I want to go to Asia next—China and Thailand in particular. I’ve always loved Asian cuisine. When I was in elementary school, my dad used to take me out to lunch every Wednesday. We’d always go to the same Chinese restaurant. Those Wednesday lunch dates not only served as a chance for me to leave school for an hour but also to spend some quality time with my dad and enjoy a delicious meal. I want to go to China to try more authentic, regional Chinese cuisines and to Thailand for the street food scene.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite Asian restaurants in the U.S.:
- Ken’s Ramen – Japanese artisanal noodle bar; best ramen; formerly located in Providence, RI where I went to college (now in LA)
- Roosterspin – modern Korean fusion; best double-fried chicken wings; located in my hometown of Westfield, NJ
- Soup Dumpling Plus – Shanghainese food; best soup dumplings; located in Fort Lee, NJ
- Chung Sol Bat – authentic Korean BBQ; nice and friendly staff (I’m a regular and they always treat me extremely well); located in Edison, NJ
- Baguette Delite – authentic Vietnamese food; best banh mi sandwich; located in Edison, NJ.
- Sushi Den – best and freshest sushi; located in Denver, CO
What advice would you give to girls looking to get into or already playing hockey?
It’s not about winning or losing. Hockey teaches you important life lessons that will help guide you long after you’ve hung up the skates. Respect the game, be a great teammate, respect your opponent, and appreciate those who make sacrifices to allow you to play. I challenge you to put a stick in the hands of someone close to you—a friend, a family member, or whomever. Hockey is the greatest game in the world and it’s a gift that’s meant to be shared with others. Unfortunately, there are barriers to entry into hockey for many people, young and old. So introduce someone to the game. Share your passion. Share your knowledge. Share your equipment (safely during the pandemic). And if you’re looking to get into hockey, it’s ok to be scared or intimidated. It’s not an easy sport, but it’s ok to make mistakes. It’s ok to fall down. In fact, these things are good and will only help you get better. Embrace failure and use it as motivation to overcome any obstacle in your way and prove people wrong.
What are five things you are currently loving?
- Coaching youth hockey and being an ambassador for the game
- Black Girl Hockey Club’s Get Uncomfortable Campaign: https://blackgirlhockeyclub.org/getuncomfortable/
- Podcast: The Curious Competitor with Connor Carrick. A journey into the pursuit of improvement and well-being, physically, mentally, and spiritually. His guests are at the top of their respective fields, and the series is a great listen for athletes of all ages.
- TV shows written, directed, and/or produced by Ryan Murphy. I think he’s an artistic genius whose recent work often blends a mix of horror, drama, humor/satire, and historical context. Murphy is the co-creator of one of my favorite shows, Pose. Pose is a drama spotlighting the legends, icons, and ferocious house mothers of New York’s underground ball culture, a movement that first gained notice in the 1980s. Making television history, Pose features the largest cast of transgender actors in series regular roles. It’s a phenomenal show that taught me a lot about trans history, the AIDS epidemic, and racial injustice during this time period. I’m currently watching Ratched, another work of Murphy’s, which is based on the character Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
- Supporting local restaurants and Black-owned businesses.
Where can we find you online? Any social media handles or any initiatives you would like to support / promote?
- IG: @moose_x_ing
- Twitter: @moose_X_ing
- Follow for foodie adventures: @twogirlsonefork_nj
Thank you, Moose for taking the time to talk to me. I can’t wait to watch you and the Riveters this upcoming season!
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