Ice hockey has always been a male-dominated sport. This is common in most sports, but unlike tennis, soccer, or basketball, the aggressiveness, speed, and physicality are raised to another level in hockey. Perhaps, these are the reasons why it has taken longer for women to gravitate toward hockey when choosing a sport or extracurricular activity.
Today girls can get involved in hockey just like boys. Most communities offer learn-to-skate groups for toddlers and pre-schoolers at local rinks and then co-ed hockey at the primary age. Of course, as your child gets older, the question arises: “should your daughter play on a girls’ or boys’ team?”
In the past, girls played on boys’ teams by default because there were not enough female youth players to make up a full team or league. Unfortunately, it was common that as kids got older, the girls would drop out of hockey because they did not have many options to advance to. Now, with more girls playing, they have more options than ever before.
Girls who play hockey
Traditionally, figure skating was always a popular choice for young girls; the boys in the family would play hockey, and the girls would learn to figure skate. While there are many benefits to figure skating, there are additional team-building benefits that come from playing hockey. Hockey also adds to the options for female athletes who want to stay active in the winter. In addition to the sport adding to a girl’s health, skillset, and mental and physical toughness, there are also many scholarships opportunities for female hockey players.
Playing on a Girls’ Team vs. Playing on a Boys’ Team
Girls can choose to play on a boys’ team if they feel that it fits their level of skill and competition. Usually, this is perfectly fine until they get to a level where organized sports divide into girls’ and boys’, or men’s and women’s’ leagues (for example in high school, travel and professional hockey). At this point, there should be a women’s league that is at a high enough level of competition for the top female players.
There are benefits to either decision. The benefits of playing on a boys’ team could be the skills that the female player learns from playing in a more challenging environment (although this is not always the case). However, it may come to a point where the female player has physical challenges on the team, or that she gets less ice time and experience as the underdog.
Playing on an all-girls team could still be challenging, but the player would have an equal chance at ice time and contributing to the team’s performance. There are also many team bonding benefits to playing on an all-girls team as a young girl or teenager. It is essential to consider that if a player continues to play hockey in school or professionally, she will end up playing on a girl’s team anyway.
A Bright Future for Women’s Hockey
Fortunately, the popularity of girls in all sports is going up. Girls have so many iconic female athletes to look up to, like the US and Canadian Women’s Olympic hockey teams. The US Women’s Soccer team is also inspiring female athletes everywhere, after winning the Women’s World Cup this year and bringing more exposure to female sports as a whole. An annual increase in registration for female youth hockey has led to more leagues and teams for girls, and in turn, will attract more female players. The hockey community can only hope that this continues to grow.
Naturally, some girls gravitate towards figure skating, while others want to follow in the footsteps of their older brothers or piers who play hockey. The important thing is not to force your children in one direction or another, but to make sure that they are involved in an extracurricular activity or sport that they genuinely enjoy.