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April 2014

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Member Makes Olympic Appearance

When Ekaterina Pashkevitch took to the ice in Sochi, Russia, earlier this year, playing center for the Russian Women's Olympic Hockey Team, she was a big hit with her fans.

"To play in front of your own fans was like having a seventh player on the ice," she said. "I had people on the streets cheering for me."

But some of her biggest supporters were halfway across the world: her brothers and sisters from Worcester, Mass., Local 96.

When not in skates, Pashkevitch, known as Kat, works as a journeyman wireman. Born in Moscow, she moved to Massachusetts in 1994 after visiting the area during a North American tour with the Russian team.

She became a U.S. citizen soon after.

She began skating at the age of three. She loved the ice, but what she wanted to do more than anything else was to play hockey — not exactly a female-friendly sport at the time.

There was no Russian girls' hockey then, so she joined the Moscow boys' team. But it wasn't easy breaking the gender barrier in one of Russia's most beloved sports.

"I had to deal with a lot of weird looks and comments," she said. "I was not fitting into a stereotype of a girl."

But her coach fought for her to join the team, successfully bringing the issue to youth hockey league officials.

Women's hockey would soon take off and in 1993, she became a charter member of Russia's first-ever women's team. Kat started competing at an international level, leading Russia to two medals in International Ice Hockey Federation Championships, and was named MVP multiple times. Sochi marks her third Olympic appearance.

While visiting Boston on tour, a local university asked if she would help start their women's hockey program. Knowing no English and with only $200 and a hockey bag to her name, she decided to make a new life in America. "Talk about starting from scratch," she said.

She ended up coaching the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's women's team for seven years.

Despite her hockey success and impressive educational background, Kat still found it hard to make ends meet.

"When I got back after the 2006 Olympics I was broke, I had no money," she told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette in February. "I had to work minimum-wage jobs."

She was doing maintenance work at a local hotel, when her manager noticed she had a knack for electrical work. He suggested she check out the IBEW.

"Kat does a great job," said Local 96 Business Manager Leo E. Miller Jr. "She works very hard and at the worksite she's just one of the guys."

She is one of the few women in the local, but Kat is experienced with knocking down gender barriers.

"I absolutely love working in the trade," she said. "Being an electrician combines physical aspects and thinking skills. It suits my personality perfectly."

At 41, she's the oldest player to play women's Olympic hockey, and admits that competing against players half her age is a challenge.

"I don't have the energy and skill level I used to, but I use my experience and knowledge of the game," she told the Telegram and Gazette.

The Russian team narrowly missed getting a medal, losing to Switzerland in the quarter finals. Despite the loss, she said the experience of playing before a home crowd in the Olympics was amazing.

She also appreciated the support she got from her IBEW brothers and sisters, including Miller and her employer Coglin Electric.

"I got tons of emails and Facebook messages from co-workers and fellow members," she said. "It helped me so much in tough training times to know how many people were cheering me on and were proud of me. I felt like I wasn't just doing it just for myself, but for everyone who believed in me."

Kat said she plans to keep involved with hockey as long as her health will allow. "Absolutely, I love the game."


Worcester, Mass., Local 96 member Ekaterina Pashkevitch played center for the Russian Women's Olympic Hockey Team.