There’s no question: girls can do anything boys can do. Period.
As evident by the years of success on the ice and beyond, in 2018, there’s little doubt that the stage is set for female triumph in whatever she may choose. In Minnesota, we like to boast that especially holds true in hockey.
Just take a look at the cold, hard stats from the State of Hockey this past season:
But despite the evidence, some people still aren’t convinced. They still see girls hockey and boys hockey in different lights, and occasionally, that creates a perceived need to play on youth teams in order to excel in the game.
“In my generation, we played with the boys because it was the only option,” explained Emily West, USA Hockey’s ADM manager for female hockey and two-time captain at the University of Minnesota. “We didn’t have the fortune of having girl’s hockey teams or programs. The switch to just having girl’s hockey available is huge for the sport. Why would you want to not enjoy that?”
We took some time to dispel three of the most common misconceptions surrounding girl’s hockey as a reminder that it’s never a bad thing to be one of the girls.
‘Boy’s hockey is better than girl’s hockey’
“I think a big misconception is that girl’s hockey isn’t as elite as boy’s hockey,” said West, who finished her Gopher career with 158 points and a 2012 national title. “Take a look at a youth girl’s game, or the Olympic game is a center stage example. Both boy’s and girl’s have the ability to be elite if they put the work in. And one game is not better than the other based on gender.”
Amber Fryklund, associate head coach of the women’s team at Bemidji State University, points to the National Women’s Hockey League, who expanded this offseason to include the Minnesota Whitecaps, giving girls a professional level to play and rival the NHL.
“Instead of looking at NHL players you can say Olympic names, and NWHL names,” she said. “Girls have those role models who play women’s hockey at the highest level, and it just shows how incredible the skill level really is in girl’s and women’s hockey. Just incredible.”
Hannah Brandt, Sidney Morin, Grace Zumwinkle played girl’s hockey throughout their entire career. Each has a gold medal to show for it.
‘My skills will improve better with the boys’
Most people assume that boys and girls need to learn the same skills so their development should be the same. While the basic premise that all hockey players need to learn to skate, pass, etc. is true, it’s important to recognize there are differences between how boys and girls develop physically, which leads to different windows of trainability.
”Girls tend to go through speed and skills one year earlier than boys, between ages 6-8. Girls also have a growth spurt earlier than boys at ages 11 and 12,” describes West. “Focusing on those windows automatically and sex-specifically sets boys and girls apart.”
With windows of trainability playing a role in how players develop, training with girls who are hitting the same windows around the same time simply makes more sense.
Plus, looking at the where the top girls in Minnesota are coming from, it is clear girls’ teams are playing a key role in their development. Of the girls attending Minnesota Hockey’s High Performance Girls 14 Summer Camps the past two seasons, 92 percent (220) played girl’s hockey during their association season, including several players from small communities with only a single girls team.
Of the 31 girls who made the 2018 USA Hockey Girls Select 15 National Camp, 29 played girl’s hockey, while two played youth.
“Girl’s hockey is skilled hockey,” Fryklund exclaims. “The skills and development have come so far thanks to the ADM and growth of associations in Minnesota. It’s really special to see.”
‘You’re more likely to be ‘found’ playing with the boys’
A survey of 73 recent Division I commits found 61 (84%) played girls hockey as a 12U instead of playing on a Peewee team, and all but one were on a girls team at the time of their commitment.
“If you’re in a program doing the work, you’re going to get better and you’re going to be found,” said West.
In Minnesota, that likelihood is even greater.
“The exposure of the game in general has grown, and the popularity of the game in Minnesota is unlike anywhere else,” said Fryklund. “Across the country, schools and leagues look to Minnesota for talent when it comes to hockey—boys or girls—and it’s often easily found.”
Ultimately, like in everything, it comes down to what is best for your development. Know the options and make an educated decision on what road to take, but the bottom line is girls can excel in the sport from any team and any community in Minnesota.
“Everyone has their own path,” said West. “It all depends on a player’s comfort-level and what is best for them.”