With no youth hockey leagues or teams available Alexandra “Alex” Carpenter grew up playing hockey with the boys. It wasn’t until high school when Carpenter began to play hockey with just the girls.
Now that she’s a member of the U.S. Women’s Nation Ice Hockey Team, Carpenter reflects on the opportunities that youth girls have today compared to when she was playing youth hockey. When she was growing up she said there were much fewer girls playing hockey at a young age, but today “There are so many more girl’s playing the game that it makes it easier to create these leagues.”
This describes the key of former Greely High School Hockey Assistant Coach Tom Hurley’s theory about the advance of girl’s high school hockey. He has noticed a rapid improvement in Maine High School Girl’s Hockey in the years since it became recognized as a varsity sport. He was a coach during the early 2000’s when the state of Maine still did not recognize a league for women’s ice hockey and stayed with the team while they transitioned to a full varsity program.
In 2006 when the sport got varsity recognition it changed the game for teenage girls. Games began drawing larger crowds, fellow students cheered them on, and most importantly young girls in the crowd became inspired.
These young girls then began to play hockey and once organizations such as Casco Bay Hockey Organization realized there was in increased interest in girl’s youth hockey they began forming more teams. The house teams that were originally created for girl’s hockey were no longer enough for the players. The organization had to create new travel and AAA teams that will travel around New England in search of the best competition available to satisfy the young players.
As common sense would suggest, if you get more girls to play hockey starting at a young age it will lead to more skilled players and higher quality hockey at the High School level.
It is impossible to quantify skill level in a sport like hockey but Coach Hurley describes it as “A completely different game than when I was the coach. The girls have become so fast and skilled.”
Now the key is to keep this trend going for years to come. Alex is determined to do her part as she describes “I help run skill sessions for girl’s teams” and “jump on the bench every now and again when I have some time”
Both Alex and Tom agree that the key to improving women’s hockey is getting more girls to begin playing at as young an age as possible. While her own career is very important Alex stated “One thing I am most passionate about in women’s hockey is inspiring the next generation of youth players.”
One of the most exciting aspects of women’s hockey today is the establishment of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). This is just its second year of existence. The league currently is comprised of just four teams based in the northeast, but if it can solve some of its administrative problems it could further increase the growth of women’s hockey.