Girls hockey is one of the fastest growing participation sports in New Jersey and across the country – rising 65% over the past 15 years. The biggest problem moving forward is not interest, but ice time. And clinics. More important than anything else, is access to opportunities.
The Devils, Devils Youth Foundation and the NHL are working to change that.
Sunday morning at the Prudential Center, the three groups helped launch the Jersey Girls Hockey Club, a recreational ice hockey league for girls ages 5 to 12 in New Jersey, providing a space for girls to continue playing hockey among their peers.
The recreational hockey league is open to girls graduating from the Devils' Learn-to-Play program, providing a safe space for girls to continue working on their hockey skills while providing a fun, inclusive team environment. The Jersey Girls Hockey Club will play at the RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House, the New Jersey Devils' practice facility, every Saturday afternoon from March 23 through May 18.
There was an unofficial start on Sunday morning, as more than 40 girls were welcomed to the Prudential Center to participate in an on-ice festival with a skills component moderated by Amanda Pelkey (US Olympic Gold Medalist) and Shelley Pickard (Devils Hockey Ambassador, US Olympic) Silver medalist and assistant coach for the Long Island University women's hockey team) and others.
The impact of the Jersey Girls Hockey Club could be enormous, said Gillian Frechette, chief marketing officer for the Devils and Prudential Center.
“We are thrilled to announce the Jersey Girls Hockey Club and create an inclusive environment where young girls can play hockey in a fun but developmental way,” she said. “This recreational league fills a void in youth hockey, allows them to play the game at a higher level of organization, and aligns with the Devils’ commitment to supporting girls and women in hockey.”
Funding for the Jersey Girls Hockey Club is provided in part by the Devils Youth Foundation.
Kate Whitman Annis, executive director of the Devils Youth Foundation, praised the investment.
“The Jersey Girls Hockey Club is another impactful way for the Devils Youth Foundation to support and grow the game we love,” she said. “This project reflects the Devils Youth Foundation’s mission of ensuring access to sports and creating meaningful opportunities for our youth throughout New Jersey.”
The Jersey Girls Hockey Club has been touted as a legacy for the 2024 Maritime Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series, as the Devils are one of four local teams that will play at MetLife Stadium next weekend.
In fact, it is another step in growing the game in the state.
Fifteen teams compete at the collegiate level in girls' hockey in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. A number of other schools compete at the junior level.
Clearly the interest is there.
A reader poll conducted by NJ Advance Media to name the best upperclassman player received more than 15,000 votes.
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As was the case when the male side of the sport flourished with teams in the 1990s, more opportunities are likely all it will take for girls to achieve massive growth.
The Jersey Girls Hockey Club is an effort to help in that effort, said Kim Davis, NHL vice president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs.
“This Legacy Project demonstrates the power of strategic philanthropy, focusing our efforts around the specific mission of investing in the future of women’s hockey and our growing fan base,” she said. “We know that Jersey Girls will grow up to be future players, supporters and leaders of our game.”
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