Friday, December 21, 2018

Pink laces, longer hair and significantly smarter: welcome to girls hockey

Avery Knueppel, 13, was inspired to play hockey by her father and grandfather. She says boys were not "super kind" to her when she began playing but have learned to respect her. |

     Do girls play hockey differently than boys?
     Yes, according to Jenny Fitzpatrick, who has both a son, Mac, 14, and a daughter, Caitlin, 10, playing youth hockey.
     “The girls really play smart,” she said. “More brains, less brute.”
     “Significantly,” added Forrest Knueppel. “I have a son that plays as well, and I’ve been coaching. For the longest time, I’ve said: If all kids were as easily coached as my daughter and all girls I’ve coached, our job would be a heck of a lot easier.” 
Kyla Schneider, left, at practice.

     “They listen better,” said Steve Holeczy, a coach of Squirt hockey—the levels are Mite, Squirt, Pee Wee and Bantam. “They mature a little better, so they’re not screwing around, when we ask them to do stuff, they’re very attentive. Skillwise though, it’s very, very equal.”
     “The girls seem to have a little more solidarity as a team,” said Alicia Sharun, 14, who has played on both all-girl and co-ed teams. “I like girls better. I feel I can communicate more with them.”
     Despite the growing popularity of girls hockey, people still assume hockey players are boys.
     “The big differences are, whenever I talk to friends about it, they assume it’s a son, assume I have two boys,” said Fitzpatrick.
     But girls do play hockey, which is why I stopped by the Glacier Ice Arena in Vernon Hills to watch the Ice Dogs practice and to talk to the girls, their parents and coaches.
     Only eight of the 300 players at Glacier are girls. Nationwide, the ratio is about one in seven: of 382,514 kids participating in USA Hockey last season, 60,983 were girls.

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No. 26, Kyla Schneider, 10, listens to coach Steve Holeczy during a practice at the Glacier Ice Arena, in Vernon Hills. Like many girl hockey players, she was inspired to try the sport through family: her father, Eric, is general manager at Glacier. 


  1. I think many of us still associate hockey with fist fights and missing teeth. Doesn't surprise me that girls are generally better at teamwork. I think there's way too much focus on star players at every level of every sport.



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