It’s practice time for the Washington Pride junior ice hockey team. All of these players are fast and tough — and they are all girls. They practice three times a week and travel for games throughout the U.S., Canada and occasionally Europe. They are part of a growing trend. According to USA Hockey, 5,500 girls played the sport in 1990. Now it’s more than 70,000. Adult women’s hockey is flourishing, too. At last year’s Olympics, Team USA won the gold. CGTN’s Jim Spellman reports.
That team included Haley Skarupa, a former Washington Pride player who now plays professionally in the National Women’s Hockey League, a small start-up with several corporate sponsors, including Dunkin’ Donuts.
In places like Kuwait, teams are forming for the first time. In China, more girls are taking to the ice as Beijing prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
“I think there will be plenty more pro teams down the road. There will be plenty more pro teams internationally. Hopefully more colleges in non-traditional hockey markets will sponsor hockey for women, and I think at the youth level there will be continued growth around North America and worldwide, ” said Kush Sidhu, head coach of the Washington Pride.
Many Washington Pride players were told they should take up figure skating and leave hockey to men.
“In 7th grade, the kid I sat next to told me every single day that girls couldn’t play hockey. So either I didn’t play hockey or I wasn’t a girl,” said Hannah Humphreys, a goalie for the team.
Humphreys will play hockey at Dartmouth College in the fall.
“He’s in my English class now. Doesn’t say anything,” she added with a smile.
Julia Blitz is known simply as Blitz to her teammates. She began playing when she was 4 years old. She played alongside boys before joining the Pride.
“It’s amazing seeing how the sport has changed over the years. You’re given more opportunities. You’re given more chances to achieve your goals,” Blitz said.
Like most of her teammates, she will play hockey in college and hopes to take her game all the way to the Beijing Olympics.
These players want to inspire others as they break down barriers.
“Women’s sports need to be promoted more and expanded on, and I think that little kids shouldn’t be told they can’t play a sport just because they’re a girl. Girls are just as capable as guys if not better in some ways, sometimes,” Humphreys added.
For anyone who doubts what these girls are capable of, Blitz has this response: “Watch me play. Watch what I can do.”