Is Boys Hockey Better Than Girls Hockey?
This year, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play hockey with a bunch of ex-NHLers as part of the Hockey Hall of Fame Induction weekend. And while I didn’t get to skate with Yzerman or Hull, I was out there on the ice with former NHL greats Glenn Anderson and Cliff Ronning (if your response to those names is, “Who,” Google them….trust me, they were, and still are, pretty incredible).
Now I have to admit, I was a little bit nervous going into the 4-on-4 tournament. But I held my own. And I realized something really interesting. I play “like a boy” out on the ice. Let me explain what I mean by that. Back when I first started playing hockey at the ripe old age of 13, I only played with the boys. This wasn’t competitive hockey though – it was just house-league and pick-up hockey. I didn’t make a girls’ hockey rep team for 2 years, so playing hockey with the boys was my only option.
I remember heading over to the outdoor rink every day and saying to myself, “I will not be the worst player on the ice”. I was ALWAYS the only girl out there. And I didn’t wanted to be “that girl”. I didn’t want the boys to take it easy on me. I just wanted to be able to keep up.
So for those first two years I went out and played with the boys and tried to hold my own. It wasn’t pretty at first, but by the time I made my first girls’ rep team, I had probably logged close to 400 hours of ice time playing with the boys.
And as I continued through high school, I kept playing pick-up hockey with the boys every chance I could – in addition to all the hockey I was playing with my girls’ hockey teams. I was still the only girl out there, but now I was starting to make plays and frustrate the boys. By the time I left for college, I was skating circles around some of the guys who used to make me look like a human pylon only a few years earlier.
Playing with the boys made me the best player I could be. Do I think that all girls’ hockey players should play with the boys? Not at all. But not enough girls’ hockey players just go out and PLAY.
I didn’t go from a 13 year old who couldn’t skate to a 19 year old playing Division 1 college hockey and trying out for the national team because of all the hockey schools I went to or the amazing rep teams I played for. I was able to make that jump in such a short period of time because I was out on that outdoor rink for hundreds of hours each winter trying to play like one of the boys.
You have to have the skills, systems and strategies as well as the speed, strength and stamina, to really excel at the elite levels of women’s hockey. But you also need to be creative and competitive. And when you are out on the rink playing pick-up hockey, you try different things you might not ever try when your coaches and teammates are watching. You’ll stay out on the ice for 2 hours straight with only 2 extra skaters on the bench and no goalies, and keep the score the whole way through, even when it’s 23-21. Not enough girls’ hockey players do this though. It’s the ones that do who rise to the top.