USA Hockey Magazine

November 2014

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42 NOVEMBER. 2014 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM GO AHEAD, ASK HER. Audra Mari has heard it all before. Aren't you too pretty to play hockey? How many fights have you been in? Are those all your real teeth? "I've heard them all, plus 'how badly did you get hurt?'" recalls the reigning Miss North Dakota. "I got hurt more playing soccer." Like many kids in her home state, hockey was a way of life for Mari, who started playing in kindergarten and continued until her junior year of high school. The statuesque brunette, who stands 5-foot-10 out of skates, could have skated to even greater heights if she hadn't gravitated to beauty pageants as a teenager. "I thought of playing in college, but it wasn't my life," she admits. "I have girlfriends who play in college, and that's all they do." Mari was in her mid-teens when she started modeling in Minneapolis. The extensive trav- el took a huge chunk out of her weekends, which she would nor- mally spend with her teammates. "That was another reason I quit hockey," she says. "It got frustrat- ing. I would miss practices, and I had to choose." Knowing she wasn't going to play in college, Mari made the tough decision to transition from red line to runway. "My dad, who was my coach for six years, was so invested, and it was really hard to give up," she recalls. That's not to say that hockey was just a skating and passing fancy. "I definitely loved it," she says. "It's still my favorite sport to watch." And that's why even though she has hung up her competitive skates, Mari can still be found making the hour commute from her hometown of Fargo to the palatial Ralph Engelstad Arena to take in University of North Dakota games. She's been known to take a twirl or two on a local frozen pond every winter, though, even if she hasn't played competitively in a few years. ONCE SHE TRADED in a hockey helmet for a tiara, many of the lessons she learned on the ice and in the locker room served her well in the ultra- competitive world of beauty pageants. "I have always loved watching pageants, ever since I was little. I can remember many late nights with my mom, staying up past my bedtime, on a school night, so we could see who won," Mari says. "However, growing up, I was always in sports. I played ice hockey, soccer, vol- leyball and also ran track through middle school, so pageantry to me was extremely foreign." T h e M i s s U S A p a g e a n t doesn't require participants to display a talent, although Mari does boast some musical apti- tude. A publicity photo on the pageant site shows her sporting a saxophone, but her true melodic forte lies with the piano, which she spent a decade playing. "It's not like I don't have any talent," she laughs. She also had a talent for stick- handling, and still likes cutting to her backhand to put the puck home in shootouts. "I miss that," she says. PUCKS PAGEANTS AREN'T YOU TOO PRETTY TO PLAY HOCKEY? HOW MANY FIGHTS HAVE YOU BEEN IN? and AUDRA MARI MAKES THE TRANSITION FROM RINK TO RUNWAY AS MISS NORTH DAKOTA | By ROMAN J. USCHAK PHOTOS BY Bob Caulfield

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