At 64 years old, Leslie Tidball is still fearless on the ice.
Tidball, lead prosecutor for the city of Everett, is also a founder of the Snohomish County Women’s Ice Hockey team, the only women’s team in the county. Not only that, Tidball is the team’s oldest and shortest member.
Nicknamed “SnoCos,” the players are marking their fifth season this year. They have a few tournament wins to their name, but Tidball said their greatest accomplishment is just getting time on the ice. The Angel of the Winds Arena at Everett is their home ice, but the rental time is not guaranteed. So the women skate wherever and whenever they can — often at 9 p.m. and miles from home.
“Getting the ice, that’s the battle,” said Tidball, who is 5 feet tall. “Youth hockey gets all the good times.”
A lifelong athlete, Tidball has been playing hockey for 15 years.
“I always participated in different sports growing up,” said Tidball, who listed softball, tennis, golf, swimming, skiing — snow and water. “I can’t think of a time I didn’t know how to throw a ball. I just always loved it. (Through) the skating and the hockey when I was older, I learned in my personality what it was that made me want to do all those other sports.
“How much fun it is to fall, or fail in a way, and then getting yourself back up and trying harder. I just love that.”
In 2002, a fellow attorney complained to her about how much he missed Colorado. He longed for the cold, the snow and especially the hockey.
Then she saw a 1-inch story about adult hockey in the newspaper. There was literally just enough room for the headline to say “Adult hockey.” She tore it out of the paper and threw it on her coworker’s desk the next day. “I said, ‘Quit your complaining and do something about it,’ which is something my dad always told me,” Tidball said.
She was 48 and had never ice skated before, but Tidball agreed to go with her coworker if he agreed to teach her how to stand up when she falls down on the ice. He kept his side of the bargain.
They signed up for a hockey class that promised membership in the Greater Seattle Hockey League after six to eight weeks of training. Tidball took to the game well. After training, she played for a coed team called the Fire Ants.
She didn’t get much sleep that season because of her new love of hockey: She played five or six nights a week. The games started at 10 or 11 p.m.; she had to be in the office by 7 a.m. If there wasn’t a game, she was practicing late in the evening with other members of her team or playing pick-up games at Seattle-area rinks.
After the Fire Ants, Tidball played for Snohomish County’s The Grateful Red and Everett’s The Ravens. From those two teams, she helped form the all-women SnoCos in 2013. The goal was to give women with loved ones who played hockey a chance to try the game themselves.
While the Greater Seattle Hockey League and the Cascade Hockey League allow women to play, the teams are mostly made up of men.
“It’s so rare that there isn’t another one,” Tidball said of local women’s hockey teams. “There are no pure women’s teams in those two leagues, but what you’ve got are women who want to play. The Ravens still play but don’t hold regular practices. Some of the SnoCos play with them because it’s a pick-up team. It gets a little wild sometimes when you’re playing against your own teammates.”
When Tidball isn’t on the ice, she’s in the courtroom.
As Everett’s lead prosecutor for the past year, Tidball manages day-to-day operations of the prosecutor’s office. She also sees her share of court cases, most of them involving domestic violence, DUI, trespass and theft.
She and her team of six handled 3,160 new cases in 2016, not including traffic infractions. They also work on appeals, update laws, advise the police department and represent the city when drivers challenge a speeding ticket.
Tidball describes herself as calm, observant and not overly aggressive at work and at play — even though she’s first to make a move inside the law and on the ice. She’s all about teamwork, whether that’s her team of lawyers or hockey players.
“My game is more about supporting my teammates,” she said. “You could say, on and off the ice.”
That’s not all this 64-year-old has done.
Before she became a lawyer, Tidball, who lives in Clinton on south Whidbey Island, had a 22-year career as a newspaper reporter.
Tidball worked at the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber; the Peninsula Gateway in Gig Harbor; the Coeur d’Alene Press in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and Inside the Seahawks, a sports magazine popular in the ’80s.
After reporting on white supremacists linked to bombings in Coeur d’Alene in 1986, Tidball decided she was too close for comfort.
So at 40, she became a lawyer. After graduating from the Willamette University College of Law, she practiced law in Oregon from 1993 to 2001, including as a member of a county interagency narcotics team at the height of a meth epidemic, before moving back to Washington.
Since 2013, Tidball also has been working out three times a week. She wanted to keep moving after finishing physical therapy for knee surgery.
Tidball lost 35 pounds and is in the best shape of her life. She has the six-pack to prove it.
Her workout coach, Sally Krumdiack, said it’s been fun to watch Tidball’s transformation.
“It’s been motivating to other students when they see how far she’s come in a short time,” Krumdiack said. “I use her as an example: ‘I’ve got a 64-year-old. If she can do it, you can do it.’ She’s inspiring to others, especially because she doesn’t let her age stop her. It’s just a number.”
On Aug. 9, 2015, Tidball summited Mount Rainier to benefit the Fred Hutchinson Climb to Fight Breast Cancer. She climbed 14,411 feet in honor of her mother, now 89, who is a five-year breast cancer survivor. She raised over $7,000 and reached the mountaintop in three days.
“She keeps herself very busy and she keeps herself very strong,” said Jane Tidball, who has been living with her daughter since she was widowed. “When she takes on a (task), she is determined to do it and get it right.”
Tidball also has volunteered as a referee for high school basketball in Snohomish County for 12 years. She’s back after a two-season hiatus to heal an injured shoulder — she hurt it from throwing her arms up in the air so much. Tidball referees three to four nights a week.
Tidball says she plays hockey, referees basketball, goes to bootcamp and summits mountains because she just can’t sit still. She either has to be moving, she has to be learning, she has to be competing or she’s not herself.
“I keep going so that at 64, I don’t feel that old,” she said. “My best friend and I, our goal is to still be skiing when (we’re 65 and) it’s free.”
North Coast Magazine
This article is featured in the spring issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www. washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.