WASHINGTON D.C. - After what it feels like a long drought, DC sports fans appear to finally have a reason to cheer as the Washington Capitals fight for a play-off berth in the Stanley Cup. And spectators who might notice that bundle of beauty and energy called the Red Rockers – the Cap’s official cheerleading squad – probably didn’t know one of them has Filipino roots.
Michelle Dee is the only Filipina in the 16-woman National Hockey League Cheerleaders Squad. But more remarkable perhaps, she holds a double Master’s degree in Public Policy and International Development and actually has a full-time day job as a government budget analyst.
She’s always loved the competition, according to her mother Ellen Dee, originally from Ilocos Norte (her father Wilson is Chinese). Michelle is an only child.
“She was always an active participant in her school musicals and was one of her middle school’s best defense players on their lacrosse team,” she confided to the Manila Mail, adding that Michelle joined her first cheerleading team in high school.
Born in Manila, she has lived in the United States since she was 10 years old.
Michelle has lived in London, Toronto and Washington DC. After graduating from a private high school in Alexandria, Va., she pursued an undergraduate degree in Political Science and went on to the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) for a graduate degree in International Development.
Immediately after graduating from the LSE, she pursued another Master's -- this time a Public Policy degree from University of Toronto.
Michelle’s passion for sports, from cheerleading to lacrosse and ice hockey, intensified during her college days in Canada where ice hockey is a big sport, her mother explained.
“When Michelle returned to the DC area, she decided to audition for the Red Rockers,” Ellen says. From a pool of over a hundred contenders, Michelle was among those elected to join the squad last July.
"I just love cheering for the Caps. They are a great team who not only works hard on the ice, but also cares deeply about their fans. I'm proud to represent them on and off the ice,” Michelle stressed.
“The first thing that my husband and I worried about was how she would allocate her time. Will she have enough time on her hands to juggle between work, practices, and the actual games? We were confident about her tackling the ice, as she is a very good ice skater, but we worried about work overload,” Ellen said.
Their concern turned out to be baseless. “Michelle got them all under control and even created some time for leisure,” the mother says amusedly.
As of press time, the Caps are in the midst of a campaign to oust top-seeded New York Rangers after knocking out the defending champion Boston Bruins.
“Michelle is an over-achiever, which I’m still not sure if it’s good or bad,” Ellen said.
But like a typical parent, she says she sees her daughter “very successful” in her government career and “having a happy family of her own although her love for sports and cheerleading will still be there.”
But Michelle’s mother added, “She could still be with the Red Rockers but maybe then as a mentor to new recruits.”