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The Influencers: Sue Mussey Kempf, Hockey Trailblazer

By Matt Carey, Contributor, 11/30/23, 8:45AM CST


Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this article are solely those of Matt Carey and do not reflect the opinions of Wisconsin Prep Hockey or its partners.

Being the first person to do something takes guts. Who wants to be first on the dance floor? It is much easier to wait, you can then blend into the crowd and hopefully nobody notices you do not have any rhythm. Trailblazers are people that are the first to do something. They lead the way for others.

In Wisconsin hockey we have a trailblazer named Sue Mussey Kempf. As a little girl growing up in Madison, Sue looked up to her two older brothers: Steve and Rick. Steve and Rick played hockey which meant Sue wanted to. However, in 1970 girls did not play hockey. So, Sue’s parents signed her up for figure skating. “I figure skated for about two weeks, but it was not for me, so my parents signed me up for speedskating.” Sue was a speedskater a couple winters, but her desire to play hockey never wavered. “I watched my brothers play hockey and kept asking if I could play.”

Sue’s parents finally said yes, and it made history. In 1972 Sue’s parents registered her for Madison’s Eastside Hawks and it marked the first time a girl played in the Dane County Youth Hockey League. Sue spent her first two seasons of hockey skating out. As a second-year squirt in 1974 she found her home at goalie. “I was on the bench and noticed the goalie played all game.” Sue switched to goalie and never looked back.

In 1978 Sue became the first girl to play AAA boys hockey when she attended Madison Capitols tryouts and made the team. Sue gave credit to Capitols coaches, Marlowe Suter and Paul Ryan, for supporting her, particularly in the face of pressure for having a girl on the team. “I remember a tournament in St. Louis and two Canadian teams did not want to play a team with a girl on it. Marlowe (Suter) and Paul (Ryan) pushed back against the Canadian coaches. We played both of those teams and I had two shutouts!” Some of Sue’s notable teammates included Gary Suter (former NHL All Star), Matt Walsh (former Wisconsin Badger) and John Standbrook (current skills coach for NHL St. Louis Blues).

Sue made history again in 1979 as the first girl to play WIAA boys high school hockey. She was a four-year starter on Madison La Follette’s varsity hockey team and varsity softball team from 1979 to 1983. Sue’s accomplishments earned her a scholarship to Providence.

Sue was a four-year starter on the Providence women’s hockey team and softball team from 1983 to 1987. She led Providence to two consecutive ECAC championships, and won individual awards as ECAC MVP, ECAC All-Star, and Athlete of the Year. The rigorous schedule to play two varsity collegiate sports at a high academic institution would be overwhelming for most people. Not for Sue. “Being busy provided good structure.”

During summer breaks Sue worked as a goalie coach for Bill Howard’s goalie camps. Bill Howard was the legendary goalie coach for University of Wisconsin. The original motivation to work summer hockey camps may have been a paycheck. However, Sue ended up gaining something in addition to a paycheck. “Bill Howard was influential for my development as a coach. I learned how to teach goalies and became a better coach. I ended up working about 25 years for Bill (Howard).”

The lessons Sue learned from Bill Howard paid dividends. Following college graduation in 1987, Sue returned to Providence in 1990 to be an assistant coach for women’s hockey, softball, and field hockey. “The pay back then was not high, so I had to coach more than hockey to make a living.” After coaching a couple seasons, Sue returned to Wisconsin. She worked five years for Badger State Games, and coached youth hockey. However, the desire to coach college hockey led her back to Providence in 1997 to be associate head coach for the women’s hockey team.

In 1998 Sue married Terry Kempf. In 1999 Sue made history again. She joined the coaching staff for the first ever varsity women’s hockey team at Ohio State. “I convinced my husband to move to Columbus!” Sue served as assistant coach at Ohio State for five years. She hung up the college coaching whistle after departing Ohio State in 2004.

Sue Mussey Kempf is employed in the business office of SSM Health in Madison. She and husband, Terry, live in a small town south of Madison. Sue has four siblings: Steve, Rick, Diane, and younger brother, Joe. Sue thanked her former coaches, including her dad, and Badgers assistant coach, Grant Standbrook, for helping teach the finer points of the game. Sue was inducted into the Madison Sports Hall of Fame in 2021.

Sue Mussey Kempf helped pave the way for many, leaving an indelible mark on Wisconsin hockey. Thank you, Sue!

Yours for hockey, Matt Carey
Article 3 of The Influencers


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