Despite the fact that it’s been around since the 1800s, women’s hockey still has a long ways to go in many areas. A lot of people think that because they are just one person, they can’t help girls’ and women’s hockey evolve into what it deserves to be, but that’s not the case.
We asked our WHL Brand Ambassadors to give us their best tips and ideas for getting more involved in women’s hockey, so that people just like you have a better idea of where to start.
Tip #1 from Lisa Labovitch
Find your local girls’ and women’s clubs and see if you can volunteer, or even just loan your gear for their ‘give hockey a try’ events. These seem to be becoming more common in the US and Canada. They’re generally just one-day events, free, and a pretty low commitment but an impactful way to expose new players to the game.
Internationally, that’s a bit harder. There’s an organization out of Toronto called The Women of Winter that regularly does tournaments abroad. All the ones I’ve gone on have included used equipment drives to help support the women’s/girls’ hockey players in the host countries. If you do participate in international events, see if they are encouraging you to bring old equipment to donate. If they aren’t, work with your captain to see if they can have the tournament organizer facilitate something. Also, take time to meet and befriend the skaters you play against (after the game of course). The women’s hockey world is still so small, and amazing things come from networking.
Lastly, show up for women’s and girls’ hockey at all levels. Fans make skaters feel good. It makes them feel like people are paying attention. If your local club is hosting a tournament, go cheer some teams on. It doesn’t even matter if you know them – it’s generally free hockey and fun to watch. If you’re lucky enough to be near college or pro hockey – go! Watch the NWHL games on twitter when they’re available. Watch anything that’s televised – ratings matter. When companies like Bauer and others pander to us about how they support women’s hockey, demand that they become official sponsors of pro women’s hockey. The relatively small donations they make to rec organizations here and there are nice and extremely helpful for those organizations, but imagine the impact of having some big name sponsors actually paying women to play high level hockey. What would that do to inspire those growing up with the game? It would demonstrate that there actually was a viable future in hockey.
Tip #2 from Lauren Patterson
I think more women need to get involved at the grass roots level. Coach, help run an organization, anything that can showcase you as a role model to young girls. In the past 11-12 years I’ve been coaching, I can count on one hand how many women I’ve coached with and/or against. I’ve played hockey with hundreds of women, most of them still play but are not involved at all with youth hockey because they don’t have the time, or think that they wouldn’t make good coaches. The number one thing these girls need is someone who cares about them. The rest usually falls into place after that. More players get involved and perform tremendously when they are working with someone they can personally relate to and trust.
Also, I see it all the time—girls’ hockey is viewed in a terrible perspective, especially from girls and parents of players who are in boys organizations. I see girls step up and flourish in an environment that supports and challenges them. It doesn’t matter what level of competition you are playing, tier 1 or tier 2, girls or boys, AA vs A or B, your players can be pushed and have fun. But to change this outlook, we need to elevate how we develop our players on and off the ice. Develop their skills, confidence, and get people talking about the positives your player/team/organization are implementing.
Some of the things I’ve personally done to help grow girls hockey are: organize equipment drives and girls only try hockey events—we’ve gotten so many girls outfitted and started playing hockey that way. Getting high schoolers involved in coaching as Jr coaches for younger players. We teach them the ropes of communication, evaluating and implementing drills that will help a player improve. One of my first junior coaches just took a job as a head coach in the same organization I coach with and she’s already done wonders for those girls. She was so concerned she wouldn’t be a good enough coach, but she personally recruited/convinced so many players to start playing hockey that it’s the first time our organization has ever had a U10 team. She’s already done an amazing job getting the girls up to speed skating and battling. You would never believe that some of them have been on skates for only two months. For only just starting, I think she’s one of the best coaches in the area.
Tip #3 from Manisha Rosin
As a very quiet person in real life, always worrying that I’m annoying people with my love for hockey, I find that the easiest way to let women’s hockey grow is to step on the ice and play! It doesn’t matter where you are or if there is a women’s team or not. If there is any possibility to play, go out and do it! People will see you and recognize you, and you will inspire the people around you.
I think that is how most of us get into sports like this, we see someone who inspires us and then we just go for it. If three girls are seeing you play and decide they want to play as well and those girls are each watched by more girls who then feel confident to pursue this sport, at one point it will be impossible to stop this movement.
Tip #4 from Mikayla Guarasci
I would say the best way would be to educate yourself on the women’s game. See what teams are around you, which minor hockey leagues you can support and go to events. I would definitely go watch U SPORTS or other college teams if you have a team near you.
Rather than compare the women’s game to the men’s game, just love it for what it is. There are so many incredible athletes who deserve the support of fans.
Tip #5 from Bella McKee
We must support female hockey from the beginning. Try everything to form teams. Pull players in from surrounding areas if it is needed.
Around the world we can watch female teams online and live. Buy tickets and merchandise and advertise our great female players.
Also the women who play, or used to play, can coach. I love coaching and it is a special opportunity to be a role model and help younger girls love the game and dream of what they will do in the future with it!
Tip #6 from Keith York Jr.
One thing I’ve done the past few years was purchase tickets to Les Canadiennes games and have them donated to a local youth organization that they saw fit. My original plan this upcoming season was to buy season tickets and have them distribute them amongst the youth community organizations as needed. I was also planning on doing the same thing for the Boston Blades.
With the demise of the CWHL my intent is to take that same financial contribution into the local girls organization.
One thing that could also possibly help is organize an alumni vs. current rostered players. Maybe do a $5 ticket charge to watch the game and use that to help support the local girls teams. Or even if it’s not the alumni vs. current roster, schedule a designated open ice slot for a pickup game and have anyone that plays make a minimum donation of say $10-$20 to cover the rental and the rest can go back to the teams.
Tip #7 from Krissy Draper
I am so blessed to have grown up in an area where women’s hockey is strong and always growing and gaining momentum. There are just as many young girls who play hockey (and love it) as there are boys who play and to me, that is a great success and provides me with hope for the future of the sport all over. In regards to how to grow the game internationally, my opinion, and many other people who have commented before me, is to just educate the masses on the sport. I have lost count of how many people I have talked to who have, in lack of a better sentence, no idea what women’s hockey actually is about and what it and the community associated with the sport is like. If you were to educate people on the history of the sport, the comparing between men’s and women’s hockey that happens would stop and women’s hockey could be women’s hockey, nothing to do with men who play the sport.
Tip #8 from Tina Carlson
If you are not visible you don’t exist. Nowadays, social media is what counts. Share information about your team, players, games, events on Facebook, Instagram etc. It’s worth spending some money to use FB for marketing purposes.
Recruitment of new players: hold open ice sessions free of charge. If possible, gather second-hand equipment, including skates and everything to lend for free. And, very important, make sure you have the right people off-ice during the session talking to the parents! If you are not able to convince and engage the parents, they wont bring their little girl to the rink again.
Ensure, as an organization, your players enjoy the game on a daily basis, have friends on the team, the coach is a good one encouraging the girls in their development and treating them fairly to ensure they continue to love the game and don’t quit!
Set up a program to introduce players to leadership and coaching, create prerequisites for them to continue as coach or team manager, should they decide stop playing.
Organize female only referee training/courses to encourage girls to take on a career as a referee.
Quantity is important, but so is quality! We need to make sure girls playing on a girls’ team get the best coaches and are provided practice and support with high quality.
Support the teams by actually being there and watching them play—don’t just talk about the fact we want more supporters to enjoy the game with the teams, make sure you are one of them!
Tip #9 from Mia Macpherson
Near me in Ontario, there is an organization called The Women of Winter. With them, I’ve been to play a tournament in the Czech Republic. Talking with other women players I play with regularly, letting them know of opportunities out there makes it fun for everyone and grows the game here and abroad.
Tip #10 from Lisa Corman
It’s funny. I was thinking about this the other day and trying to figure out what I had to offer since I am still a beginner. Then I went to a clinic the other day and realized that I wasn’t really a true beginner anymore. I was more like an advanced beginner and started out helping a couple of the women on the ice who were beginners. It was a good moment for me to see how far I have come, but also to realize that I can actually help these women to have a good experience in hockey. If they have a good experience, they might bring friends and work with them as they improve. It is a small step to be sure, but sometimes just being another woman on the ice — and someone who can be something of a mentor — is one of the most important things we can do to grow the game, especially for women starting later in life.
Want to become a WHL Ambassador and have your voice heard?