Women’s Hockey Teams
Women’s hockey has made a place for itself in the last twenty years. It has become an accepted and well-played sport in a number of countries, from the US and Canada to Europe and down to Australia. The first women’s international hockey tournament was in the year 1916 in Ohio, between teams from Canada and the United States. This continued through the years until the middle 1970s when Europe and Korea, Japan, and China started participating in international hockey tournaments. A number of women’s teams at various levels tour other countries, with teams of teenage girls playing a number of exhibition games in Switzerland, Australia, and other locations. National teams at the professional level also gain experience and publicity by doing hockey exchanges, often organized by USA Hockey. The US Women’s Select Team has done tours to Finland, Sweden, China, etc.
Women’s hockey is earmarked by fast skating, remarkable stickhandling, swift passing, good puck protection, accurate shooting, and quick goaltending. It is exciting hockey, and cleanly demonstrates the pure principles of hockey. In the 1990s there was some dispute whether bodychecking should be allowed in the international championships for women’s hockey. It had been disallowed in both the US and Canada in order for the size difference to become less of an issue, so that smaller or younger players would not be overpowered physically, and be able to use their skills. Europe allows it, and bodychecking would also let the European teams slow down the faster skating US and Canadian players.
Since the early 1970s, the American Girls Hockey Association has lobbied to have women’s ice hockey included as an Olympic event. There were many discussions on the issue, due to several real problems. The first was the difference between European and American rules, such as the bodychecking rule above. Another was the worry that the different countries did not have enough participants in women’s ice hockey, that the same few teams would not have enough depth to give really exciting games. Finally, women’s ice hockey was accepted as an Olympic event for the 1998 Olympics.
How does a girl become a good enough ice hockey player to try out for a national team? The first step for a number of young women is to play minor hockey on a boy’s team. In many novice or peewee leagues, girls are more coordinated than boys of the same age and do quite well on the teams. Another possibility is to have one or two all girls teams and have them play exhibition games until they gain enough experience to join the boy’s hockey league in the area. Girls that live in large cities, especially large northern cities, may have a well established girl’s hockey association ready to recruit and train anyone interested in playing.
Two of the “old stars” of women’s hockey never played on real teams as they were growing up. Shirley Cameron of Canada grew up on a farm, and just skated and played hockey with her brothers on frozen marshes around her farm. Judy Diduck skated but did not start actual ice hockey until she was 19 years old. She became a four time gold medallist with Team Canada.
Women’s hockey is an exciting and skillful game that is both interesting to watch and exciting to participate in.