Islanders Webinar Discusses The Growth Of Women’s Hockey

As my son Bradley was playing in his Dek Hockey game this past Saturday, there was really nothing out of the ordinary.  All of the kids, ages 14 through 17, played hard, had fun, and won…again, raising their record to 4-0.  The game, just like any Dek or Ice Hockey game that you would find anywhere on Long Island, looked at it should…it was a hockey game with players competing hard on both ends of the rink.

Not one player in the game looked like he or she didn’t belong.  That’s right…I said “she” because everybody that played in the game was a boy other than a young lady who is on Bradley’s team.  And to be honest, you wouldn’t have known that there was a girl in the game had it not been for her long hair in a ponytail.   She didn’t look out of place, played very well, and had a few really good scoring chances.

The point is that it should not be a surprise to see a girl playing in a boy’s hockey game because that has been commonplace over the years, especially in ice hockey, as the women’s game has evolved.  That was one of the subjects discussed this past Friday when the Islanders hosted a “Girls Hockey” Webinar with some of the biggest names in the sport.

“That’s something that I dealt with a ton growing up,” said Alex (Rigsby) Cavallini, a five-time World Champion goaltender with the United States Women’s Team and a Member of Team USA’s Gold Medal Olympic Team in 2018.  “I grew up playing boy’s hockey.  It was a time when there weren’t many options for girls to play on girl’s teams.  Especially when I was younger, I didn’t think anything of it.  I was constantly having people telling me that I wasn’t going to be good enough and that I should start to look to play girl’s hockey.”

The Islanders Assembled A Top-Notch Panel: 

The panel, moderated by Islanders in-arena host Miriam Drubel, also included…

Hicksville, Long Island native Cailey Hutchinson, a forward for the Metropolitan Riveters of the National Women’s Hockey League.

Amanda Pelkey, a forward for the NWHL’s Boston Pride and member of the 2018 United States Gold Medal Olympic Team.

Quinnipiac University Women’s Ice Hockey Head Coach Cassandra Turner, who guided the Bobcats to a top-ten ranking during last season.

Canadian-born defenseman Shannon Doyle from the NWHL’s Connecticut Whale.

And Long Island University forward Megan Bouveur and defenseman Morgan Schauer.

Years ago, a really good female player would push hard to play on a men’s team because the women’s game had not reached the level where it is now.  To put it into perspective, any world-class Men’s American soccer player is going to eventually leave the United States to go play in Europe because that’s how he is going to become a premier player.  That was once the case with women’s hockey as there weren’t a lot of opportunities to play at the highest level with other girls so they played on the boy’s teams.

There was a time when the women had to prove that they could compete with the men.

“Every year I was still making the team and I know I can compete with them,” said Cavallini.  “I think that was one of things where you have to believe in yourself and you have to trust your ability and if you know you can hang on the boy’s teams and that’s what’s going to help you improve your game the most then stick with the boys.

Islanders Webinar Shows That Women’s Hockey is Strong: 

Today, women’s hockey is a strong as it’s ever been.  The United State’s Women’s Team has won two Olympic Gold Medals (1998 and 2018) while capturing nine World Championships in 19 appearances since 1990.  There is a true professional women’s league with the NWHL and now there are a plethora of girl’s teams in youth hockey.  The total female participation including youth and adult players within USA Hockey has risen to more than 84,000.

Things have certainly changed since the girls had to hang with the boys…and they did just that.

“I always like to show them that I am strong enough so when I played pee-wee hockey that’s when you start checking and I would just go out racking guys because I wanted to show my presence and make sure I was known,” said Hutchinson.  “If you have the power to step on the ice with the boys and show your worth, that says a lot about you as a person and a lot about you as a player so I think it’s really important that girls continue to have the courage to step up and show them what girl’s hockey is all about.”

The biggest compliment that I could ever give when watching a game involving women is when I can say that it doesn’t look any different from a men’s game.  And that’s where we are now, especially when it comes to hockey.  Girls can play and they play so well to the point that if you’re watching a game on television or you happen to see a game in person, there are plenty of times that you can’t tell, maybe just from the long hair sticking out from the backs of helmets, that the game is being played by females.

Islanders Are Growing Women’s Hockey On Long Island: 

I took my son Bradley to see an LIU Women’s Game last season at Nassau Coliseum and it was a fun experience.   I would certainly go back to see more games because it’s a good product.  The game has evolved to the same point where women’s soccer and basketball is.  Let’s be honest…the United States Women’s Soccer Team has been a lot more successful and fun to watch than the men’s team over the years.

And just like in basketball and soccer, women’s hockey is growing rapidly and it’s because of the opportunities that are out there to play.

“That’s what’s so great about today is that there are so many more options for girls to play girl’s hockey and think that’s something that my generation is very proud to look at and see the growth of women’s hockey and how far it’s come since my time in youth hockey,” said Cavallini.

The Islanders have done a lot to help promote and grow women’s hockey on Long Island and in the New York area.  With the NWHL continuing to grow, perhaps there is a chance one day that the Islanders could have a team playing at their Long Island practice facility.  The Northwell Health Ice Center could be a great venue for the league and the game has grown on Long Island to the point where there are so many girls playing hockey that they deserve a chance to see their heroes play, like they do with the WNBA and the National Women’s Soccer League.

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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