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Diana holding her own with the hockey boys
14-year-old Farragut girl considered one of the top 200 female players in the nation

Whether she’s working on puck-handling drills, left, or scoring goals in practice, Diana Deer goes full speed.
Farragut Middle School eighth-grader Diana Deer is on the defensive when surrounded by boys.

But that’s her job on the ice.

Diana, 14, is not only a talented defenseman on the Knoxville Amateur Hockey Association’s Ice Bears bantam team (ages 13 and 14) — she’s also the only girl on the team.

And she’s usually the only girl in the game when the Ice Bears glide into battle.

Although small even by 14-year-old female standards, Diana doesn’t need your sympathy. A tip of the cap will do.

This Farragut youngster is listed as one of six USA Hockey Player Developmental Program honorees from the Southeastern region that includes seven states: Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

“That puts her among the top two-hundred girl players in the country,” said bantam Ice Bears head coach Thomas Bokuniewicz. “She’s really come a long way from the beginning of the year … she’s going to be quite a player.”

As for Diana’s biggest asset, “skating is number one and I’d say her positional play now is number two,” Bokuniewicz said. “She’s real heads up, she’s never out of position. She’s always where she’s supposed to be.

“In our program we don’t have enough females to have a girls team so they play right out there with the boys,” the coach added. “She’s out there banging the boards with the guys, taking the hits and giving them just like everybody else.”

Among a two-line defensemen shift for the bantam Ice Bears, Diana said her interest in hockey was sparked when her older brother, Marshall, started playing as a child.

“She more than holds her own, she’s one of the steadiest players if not the steadiest player that we have on the team,” Bokuniewicz said. “She always gives it a hundred percent effort. She’s a phenomenal person, a pleasure to be around, she always listens.”

Diana’s skill is especially important given her small frame.

“She’s a small girl, but I don’t expect her to hit,” the coach said. “We’ve been working on position, passing, speed, using the angles, making sure she knows how to cut someone off rather than hitting them ’cause if she hits someone she’s going to fall down. When she plays in girls’ (only) games, that’s going to really help her.”


“The boys think she’s great,” Bokuniewicz said. “I’ve never heard anything really negative about her playing. There was maybe one weekend where the boys were a little hard on her after she had a tough game, but we straightened that out … I said ‘don’t be hard on her, because it’s hard being a teenage girl just like being a teenage boy is hard.’

“Other than that, I don’t think they notice most of the time because she just gets the puck out of the zone.”

As for Diana’s relationship with her male teammates, “They treat me OK, but they say some nasty stuff,” Diana said.

As for having a girl on the team, “It’s no big deal, it’s cool,” said talented teammate Trey Wimberly. “I go full speed trying to beat her, but trying to beat her because she’s good.”

The bantam Ice Bears aren’t supposed to cut her any slack.

“They have to treat her just like anybody else because she has to get used to it because the other team will try to abuse her and take advantage of her,” the coach said. “The other teams are not nice to her, they hit her and they do like they would do for boys except that once they find out she’s a girl they try to hit her even harder.”

With a target on her back in addition to her small frame, Diana Deer’s talents as a hockey defensemen are a formula for survival.

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