Flying High / The Massport Jets

In the early seventies, Boston was the undisputed capitol of the hockey world as the Big Bad Bruins led by Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito captured two Stanley Cups and elevated the NHL to hitherto unprecedented heights. For not only did the league triple in size during Orr’s all-too-brief ten-year career but the NHL also secured its first-ever national television contract in the USA. They were the team that launched the construction of countless rinks and inspired legions of kids to beg their parents to purchase the first pair of skates and then set their alarm clocks for the 4:00 AM ice times that were a regular feature of the era.

Among the generation of newly minted skaters inspired by the Bruins was a team comprised of young north shore women, most of who hailed from East Boston, called the Massport Jets due to their partial sponsorship from the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Coached by Eastie legend Tony Marmo, and assisted by future state senator Robert Travaglini, the Jets were the champions of the first Girl’s Invitational Hockey Tournament held at Cornell University in 1973. Led by captain Rita Roberto the Jets dominated North American competition from 1971 to 1978.

In 1976, they petitioned the International Olympic Committee to add women’s ice hockey to the Winters Games. Unfortunately, it took another dozen years for the sport to be added to the games in 1988, by which time most of the pioneering Jets players had retired to pursue careers and raise families.

However, respect came quickly for these pioneers as the team was inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame in Kingston Ontario in 1975. Their lasting legacy is manifest in the outstanding record of our women’s national and Olympic teams as well as the formation of the two women’s professional leagues in North America.

In the late nineteen eighties, The Sports Museum received the donation of Jets artifacts from team goalie Stephanie Vrattos which form the core of the exhibit currently on display. When making her presentation she was proud to remark that her custom mask was made by Ernie Higgins, the local craftsman who’d also fitted Bruins goalie Gerry Cheevers for his mask. These artifacts are part of a rotating exhibit that celebrates not only the achievements of the Massport Jets but the region’s many Olympians and pro teams, such as the current women’s pro champion Boston Pride.

About the Curator’s Corner

Richard Johnson’s “Curator’s Corner” is  where you will find videos featuring Richard and Sports Museum Executive Director, Rusty Sullivan, discussing Boston sports history, as well as blog posts written by Richard himself.

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