I started playing hockey when I was five. My family started billeting hockey players at that time. I wanted nothing more than to be just like them. When I was seven, I was told it wasn’t ladylike, and that I should switch to figure skating. When I was ten, the boy I liked thought that I was too boyish because I played hockey and didn’t like me back. When I was fourteen, I was practicing front handsprings in my front yard because I wanted to drop hockey and be a cheerleader. This lead to the fracture in my L5 vertebrae that prevented me from playing a competitive level of hockey ever again. Mind you, I had just made a U19 girls’ team that was incredible.
Now there’s nothing wrong with being a cheerleader, a figure skater, or any of that. I do believe what they do is hard, and they must fight for their own levels of competition. But they are never questioned by other people. They are never told to be more ladylike, they’re never told they aren’t attractive, and they most certainly do not understand what it feels like to be a female hockey player.
Flash forward to today. Today, the St. Louis Blues hosted a Little Blues event, but this time just for girls ages 4-8. This event was to boost the numbers of female hockey players in St. Louis. A friend of mine coaches a U10 girls’ team and invited some of the girls from our women’s league team to help with the event. It was truly incredible the turn out we had.
The first girl I met, her name was Sarah*. Sarah’s dad held her up on the ice, as she cried because she was scared she would fall since she couldn’t skate very well. So, what did we do? We sent one of the volunteers to Superman on the ice so she could see that her pads would keep her from getting hurt. Instantly, we grabbed her a bucket so she could balance herself and learn to skate. Later, she was skating around and she couldn’t stop smiling.
The second was a girl named Annalee*. Instantly after getting on the ice she decided she didn’t like skating very much, she’d rather stop pucks. For the next two hours she spent the time in the next, dropping down and trying to stop the pucks coming at her. After she got the ice, her mom asked if she liked playing hockey. Annalee’s response was “I didn’t like it mom...I loved, loved, loved it!” She could notstop smiling from ear to ear.
Then there was Kayla*. One of the coaches had helped her skate using the buckets, and guiding her around. My job, was to get her from one end of the ice to the other. Although her skates were a littleloose (mom and dad will learn) and she couldn’t make it more than a few feet, she would bounce back up and start again, all smiles. Truly for her first time ever skating, she was doing phenomenally. She always got back up and started again. At the end, she gave me a first bump and told me thank you. She told her mom she couldn’t wait to come back.
Lastly there was Rachel*. Rachel is seven, and she was nearly as tall as me. Rachel could skate backwards better than I could at that age. She was fast, she could stop, crossover, the works. She wanted to run her own drills, skate without our sticks as fast as we could, all kinds of different things. She had a love for hockey.
There were many other girls at the event, these were just my personal experiences. I cannot wait to see where these girls go. My heart was so happy. These are the next generations of D1 players, NWHL, Olympic Athletes, and World Champions. They are the future of women’s hockey. I hope through this event, I hope that the world they live in is different, I hope they realize they can be the best hockey players in the world. They can do this and they will. They just can’t give up.
I can’t guarantee it won’t be difficult. In fact, it just might be very hard. But if they keep pushing, if they keep working hard, and if they keep loving hockey they will be skating circles around me. Actually, in no time they’ll be skating circles around me. Here’s to the next generation of women’s hockey.
*The names of the girls have been altered to protect them and their families.