Soldier and women's professional hockey player: Ashley Birdsall does it all

Julia LeDoux
August 19, 2019 - 3:42 pm
Minnesota National Guardsmen also plays for National Women's Hockey League

(Photo courtesy of Buffalo Beauts)

Ashley Birdsall is comfortable in both uniforms she wears.

Just about to complete her ninth year of service as a captain in the Minnesota Army National Guard, Birdsall has joined the National Women’s Hockey League as a forward/defender for the Buffalo Beauts.

“I’ve been an athlete my whole life,” she told Connecting Vets. “I’m pretty much accustomed to making that (playing hockey and being in the military) work.”

Birdsall, 29, has been playing hockey for more than 20 years.

“It’s kinda like one of those things up north,” she said. “You learn how to walk and you get skates put on you right away.”

Birdsall played at the University of Wisconsin-Superior from 2008-2013 and for the Minnesota Whitecaps for three seasons before the team joined the NWHL.

“If anyone knows me, they know I play hockey and they know I’m in the Army,” she said. “Those are the two things I represent.”

Beauts General Manager Mandy Cronin offered Birdsall an NWHL contract and roster spot on Buffalo’s team after Free Agent Camp.

“Ashley is a very versatile player, with an undeniable and contagious work ethic,” said Cronin. “She will be a workhorse for the Beauts.”

The Duluth, Minnesota native currently serves as joint operations center officer and G3 training technician for Joint Force Headquarters Minnesota. Birdsall enlisted in the Army in 2011 and commissioned via the Minnesota Army National Guard Officer Candidate School program a year later.

Among her military awards; the Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster; Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Minnesota Service Ribbon and Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon.

Birdsall’s first official game with the Beauts is set for Oct. 5.

“I love the sport and I love the relationships you build throughout the sport and just how small the community is,” she said.

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