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By Michael G. Glab

Dara Thompson is sipping a cocktail in a restaurant near Woodfield Mall. We're talking about a computer magazine that has "Internet entrepreneur" Monica Lewinsky on the cover.

A demon taps me on the shoulder. "Dara," I begin, "if you were Monica Lewinsky--"

Thompson interrupts. "Would I smoke Bill's cigar?"

Er, yeah.

She places her forefinger over her lips, contemplating the question for a moment. "Umm, yes."

Why?

"I, at that point, would be the most powerful person in the whole wide world."

What is she instead? The captain and top player on the Chicago Frozen Snappers, who next year will join the Women's Central Hockey League.

A woman named Fritzi Soutsos started the WCHL in 1993. Her daughter was a high school ice hockey player at the time and Soutsos felt she needed to face better competition. So she called together representatives of adult women's teams, girls 19-and-under teams, and unaffiliated high school girls varsity teams from the Chicago area and Wisconsin. They drew up rules, bylaws, and a schedule for a new league. One of those representatives was Erin Moran, who'd started the University of Illinois' Illini Women's Hockey club and, after she graduated, the area's first independent women's hockey team, the Chicago Rebels. Soutsos was the WCHL's first president. Moran later assumed that position and asked Dara Thompson to be the league's secretary.

The WCHL has grown stronger by the year and now has 24 teams in three divisions. Its players range from novices who stepped on the ice for the first time mere months ago to former collegiate stars and Olympic hopefuls. There are lawyers, artists, and housewives. There are Dara Thompson, Lisa Magad, and Andrea Meenahan.

It's the first day above freezing in about a month, since before the early December snowstorm. Andrea Meenahan and her Chicago Inferno teammates have a big game tonight against the Milwaukee Pond Piranhas. Meenahan has decided to warm up by skating for an hour before she goes out to Northbrook for the game.

Meenahan is getting ready to lace up her skates in the warming shack next to the outdoor public skating rink at Hubbard Woods in Winnetka. The ice is covered with a film of moisture. "This'll be great," she says. "See, hockey players like it when

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