The standout component of the NWHL has obviously been the fact that it pays its players. But one of things about this league (and others like the CWHL) that continues to excite me is the opportunities it presents to provide young female athletes with strong female role models who they can follow and watch year round – not just at occasional events like the Olympics or World Championships.
One American female hockey association has taken steps to ensure that their athletes have access to and connections with these role models, something that will no doubt encourage, motivate, and excite their young players. Last year, the Western Washington Female Hockey Association (WWFHA) initiated a Big Sister — Little Sister partnership with the NWHL’s New York (NY) Riveters, the first NWHL partnership of its kind.
“The NY Riveters and WWFHA partnership grew from WWFHA’s desire to connect the young female student-athletes on the Washington Wild teams with role models from the women’s professional hockey league,” said Zoe Harris, WWFHA Operations/Marketing Board Member. “WWFHA also wanted to see the new women’s professional league succeed, and we thought connecting with one of the teams would enlarge the fan base of the NY Riveters, and thus the NWHL, across the country.”
The WWFHA is a non-profit female hockey association, the only of its kind in Washington State. Established in 2002, it is a member of USA Hockey, the Pacific Northwest Amateur Hockey Association (PNAHA), and the Canadian Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association (PCAHA). Originating with three teams, the association has since expanded to seven, with three house and four rep teams.
With there being more opportunities for boys to play hockey than girls and more screen time for NHL players over NWHL and CWHL players, this Big Sister — Little Sister partnership provides Washington’s young athletes with connections to elite female players who can serve as role models and mentors – both in terms of character and in terms of hockey skill. The implications of this are powerful.
Recently one of the NY Riveters, Michelle Picard, joined WWFHA’s Honorary Board, giving her an opportunity to work more closely with players and coaches. Picard, a defender, has played for USA Hockey in four IIHF World Championships (winning three golds and one silver) and at the 2014 Sochi Olympics (winning silver). She played her collegiate hockey with Harvard University. Picard is starting her first season in the NWHL, and plans to visit the WWFHA this season to meet with players.
“I am so honoured and excited to have the opportunity to work with the WWFHA,” Picard said in a WWFHA statement. “I’ve loved playing the game of hockey ever since I first strapped on a pair of skates and this sport has given me more than I could have ever imagined. Along the way, I had numerous mentors and coaches to teach me, push me, and encourage me to become the best hockey player and person I could possibly be. Now, I hope to share a bit of what I’ve learned along the way with these aspiring young athletes.”
The WWFHA Honorary Board, which was created in 2015, serves as a way for leaders in the female hockey community to connect with and support players, families, and coaches in the WWFHA. Besides Picard, the other members are USA Olympian Lyndsey Fry, USA Hockey and IIHF referee Stacey Rondeau Livingston, AEG Sports Supervisor of Membership Programs Jason Kitay, and Rush Hockey owner and independent collegiate scout Kelly Katorji.
The WWFHA’s ultimate goal is for their female athletes to enjoy the game of hockey and develop healthy physical and mental lifestyles. Having strong female role models these athletes can look up to is a key component of this.
“WWFHA’s NY Riveters partnership, the Honorary Board … contributes to building healthy lifestyles as well as enhances the players’ hockey experience,” said Harris. “We strive to prepare the student-athletes for hockey and their life in school and at home, and for their future in college, careers, and as members of the community.”
For more information on the WWFHA, their Big Sister — Little Sister partnership with the NY Riveters, and their Honorary Board, visit http://www.wwfha.com/