Hockey Update – KC Youth Hockey Association to add girls leagues in the fall

girls youth hockey

The future of girls youth hockey has arrived in Kansas City. For years in this area, when youth hockey was the subject, the gender generally was male. But with nearly 100 of the roughly 1,000 kids involved in the Kansas City Youth Hockey Association being female, the association likely will be adding girls-only leagues in the fall.

Later this month, the Kansas City Ice Center will offer a three-week clinic just for girls. It will be held on Thursday nights for three weeks for girls from birth years 2003-10.

“We’ll put all the girls on the ice at the same time,” said Dean Nelson, general manager of the KCIC. “We’ve never done that before. All our camps have always been open to males and females. We just want to see how much excitement it generates. I think it will lead to girls teams in the winter.

“We’ve always made hockey available to the girls, but they haven’t been set apart. This is more than just making things available for them. We’re going to make it into a team concept. If a girl wants to play with the boys, that’s still going to be possible. But that’s a tough road. We’re not only going to have that option, we’re also going to have teams specifically for the girls.”

Nelson grew up in Minnesota, where female hockey is very common. But in Kansas City there hasn’t been the same type of interest. Nelson thinks it’s time, and he believes the action will lead to more interest.

“A majority of the girls will play with the girls, and that will lead to more girls playing hockey,” he said. “They’ll come down to the rink and they’ll see a girls team. They may have just moved to the area.

“Last week, I spoke with a dad whose daughter had dropped out of hockey, because she was tired of the boys. She was only eight. She could compete with the boys, but she didn’t want to be around them. If we had girls hockey, she would have stayed around.

“We’re hearing about girls of very young ages who are not enjoying being around the boys all the time. We think if we can have girls teams for younger ages, we’ll have girls involved in hockey longer. The opportunities are there now for girls, with college scholarships and women’s hockey in the Olympics. The sky is the limit.”

Nelson is not opposed to copy things that work elsewhere. In cities even as close as St. Louis, youth hockey separates the boys from the girls.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Nelson said. “These are things I’ve seen in other areas. You have to start somewhere. We should have full girls teams. The girls are as competitive as the boys.”

Nelson says the KCIC will partner with an organization called the Kansas City Storm, which has two leagues, one for girls age 19 and under and one for girls age 15 and younger. The age divisions are because of the number of participants. But Nelson feels that is too big of a stretch in age.

“Nobody really wants a 10-year-old girl on the same team as a 15-year-old,” he said. “Even though the skill level may be the same, the maturity level is vastly different. We will have the ability to place them in the proper competitive league.

“With us being the hub of hockey in Kansas City, we see all the kids. We know them all and we can tell you where they rank. That’s why we feel confident doing it now. It’s a supply and demand thing. I feel it’s time to have girls-only leagues. When I saw that we had 100 U-8s, that’s when we decided to add ice times for the U-8s. As the hockey director and the GM of the KC Ice Center, I’m just trying to make sure that the kids have the opportunity to enjoy the greatest game on Earth.”

The KCIC staff will judge the competition level for the girls and divide them into skill-appropriate teams, just like they do with the open divisions that are primarily boys. Just like with the boys, there may be multiple teams at the same competitive level. Then those girls teams will be pared up with boys teams for scrimmages.

“We’ll see some really good competition,” Nelson said. “When we go to St. Louis, we see some all-girls teams in the competition. They get pretty excited when they can compete against the boys.”

* * *

It’s July, so it’s camp season at the KCIC. All the hockey camps were sold out by the beginning of June. It has Nelson considering adding more camps next summer.

“We sold out all our camps because of the growing number of youth hockey players in the area,” Nelson said. “Over the last four or five years people have learned what they’re going to get with our various camps. They took a while to get going, because people didn’t know what they were going to get.

“Now, the families know what they’re going to get when they come to one of our camps, and they fill up quickly. It’s in demand. I’ll have to look next year at either starting earlier in the summer, or possibly running more clinics with morning and afternoon sessions.”

With the hockey camps full, the other option is the figure-skating camps. Champ camp and figure-skating basics still have a few spots available, but those will fill up fast as well. Go to KCIceCenter.com to look for available dates and to sign up.

There is one other hockey camp that’s open. It’s the training camp which will take place the two weeks before the tryouts for the Kansas City Mavericks traveling teams. For a small extra fee, hockey players who sign up for the travel team tryouts can sign up for the training camp. Registration opened July 1, and there are no limits to the number of participants for the four-session camp.

“We want to focus on the kids who are going to try out,” Nelson said. “A lot of those kids aren’t on the ice during the summer for various reasons. Those kids need to get back on the ice.”

For more information on the Learn to Skate and Learn to Play Hockey Programs, public sessions, adult hockey, clinics and camps, parties, leagues and more, call 913-441-3033 or visit www.KCIceCenter.com.

For more youth sports coverage visit: http://kcsportspaper.com/category/youth-sports/

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Article by David Smale

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