It would be easy for a person who hasn’t experienced the differences between boys and girls hockey to believe that they are the same game. They most assuredly are not.
The rules are the same, except girls are never allowed to body check; a concept that probably should be introduced to the boys game until they are playing Junior hockey, but that’s a discussion for another day. The female game and the environment that surrounds it are different than the game that males play. With that in mind, here are 10 things that female hockey players should know.
Every one of these points could be a long, detailed article on its own, so I’ll do my best to keep this brief, but bear with me if I get passionate and go off on something.
10. You’re as good or better than the boys.
Probably the most important thing to know. You are as good or better than any boys’ team. I’d put any team that I coach up against a boys team of the same level. They train just as hard (probably harder). They are just as skilled (probably more skilled). So, why wouldn’t we take on a boys team? Because they are stronger or bigger or more talented? I’m not sure that’s true until at least Midget and even then they won’t be more talented. They will just be physically more imposing. Ask Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex DeBrincat, Brad Marchand or… (well, you get the idea) if size is the only determinant in being able to play at the highest level. The biggest guy on that list is 5’9″ tall and 181 pounds.
We often have very talented boys participating in our programs and I guarantee you that their impression of girls’ hockey changes after the first skate. I can’t count how many times a young man has come up to me after the first or second challenge in a program and said, “Coach, those blue helmets (our girls) are amazing!” We need more of that. Great young men, complimenting great young women on their athletic ability. There is a mutual respect. Anyone worried about today’s youth needs to come out to a Go2TheMax program and talk to the participants. Pure gold.
9. The social part of the game is important.
One of the most interesting things about coaching female hockey is that the players call me by my first name. It’s rare that I am called “Coach”. Boys hockey is just the opposite. The female game is much more personal and as a coach you must build a good relationship with a player if you want them to succeed.
You must also teach specifics and not generalizations (which work better with most boys), but again, that’s a tangent for another day.
I’m not sure of the cause, whether it is society’s influence or otherwise, but female teams in general take longer to bond, but when they do…. wow! Team building is incredibly important. Team chats, a “kitchen table accountability” and the truth instead of the honey are all key to a successful team. No team, male or female that has internal conflicts can succeed, but a female team with dressing room drama is a train wreck. As a player, you need to be the tide and lift everyone up with you. If you see things going poorly, find a solution. Dressing room train wrecks in female hockey can be a death sentence for a team.
The feature image at the top of this post is of a group so distraught that their season is over that they are crying. They were Lower Lakes and Provincial Silver Medalists. An incredible accomplishment by any measure. What mattered most to them? The players they shared the experience with. It was over and they never wanted it to end. Winning was secondary.
8. You weren’t all born to play defence.
It is inevitable that a girl from boys’ hockey played defence. If 10 girls were to move to our team next year from a boys’ program I can guarantee that 7 or 8 of them would have been playing defence.
For the most part female players (again, I don’t know why) have more fears about being creative on the ice. They prefer a strict set of guidelines with which to play within. That’s works, somewhat, at some ages and low levels of play, but is absolutely catastrophic for the player if they ever want to play high-level hockey.
Don’t get me wrong. Defence is a far harder position to play than Forward, but most coaches don’t understand that and preach “move the puck to the forwards as fast as you can”. It’s the wrong message. 1972 called. They want that message back.
Players: Take a chance. Make a mistake. Fail. Then fail again… and again.. and again. Then fail harder and faster than you ever have before. Then do all of that again. You can’t become an elite player without taking chances, making mistakes, failing thousands of times and learning from every one of them.
If a coach yells at you for a mistake they aren’t a very good coach.
You can’t fix the past. The future hasn’t happened. Don’t worry about either and play in the present. Do your thing! Give it a go! Play in the moment!
7. Your parents spend as much time and money on you as they would on a boy.
Hockey is expensive, both from a money perspective and a time perspective. I have girls on my team that drive 90 minutes to a home game. They drive over 3 hours each way to some away games. They pay between $2,500 and $5,000 per year to play hockey. Then they go to camps, clinics, power skating, buy new sticks, skates…. you get the picture here right?
Players: you have a responsibility to your parents to go out, enjoy yourself and give your very best effort. You don’t need to be perfect. In fact, you don’t even need to be good. Your effort however, should always be 100%. Full effort = full victory.
Parents: spending all of that time and money can often put you in a position where you want to give hockey advice to your child on the drives to and from the rink. The best advice going is to let the coach do the coaching (whether you agree with them or not), let your daughter play and you just cheer. The best thing you can say to your daughter is “I love coming to watch you play.” It’s that simple.
6. The endgame is different
Don’t rule out the NHL. Nothing would make me happier than to see one of you playing a regular shift in the greatest league in the world, but you don’t need to worry about Junior hockey like boys do. It’s a blessing.
The endgame for many boys is simply unattainable. They want to play in the NHL. We’ve all seen the math on how unlikely that is.
The endgame for most girls is to get a free or at least reduced-cost education. Brilliant. Any girl willing to put in the work can find a place to play that will help alleviate the cost of University. That’s right, any girl. The problem is that 80% don’t want to put in the work.
If you want a scholarship; do the work. It’s a process and anyone can do it. Don’t be upset with the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do. We can walk you through everything, but we can’t do the work for you and we won’t babysit you. It’s truly up to you.
5. There are many paths to a scholarship.
Too many players get hung up on NCAA Division 1 scholarships. They provide a lot of sizzle along with their steak. They are glamorous. USport, NCAA Div 3 and ACHA also provide financial assistance to female hockey players. Don’t rule those out.
At the time of writing this article only 2 of the last 10 scholarship commitments were to NCAA Div 1 schools. Don’t rule out other paths. Need help? Ask us.
4. The grass isn’t greener and the ice isn’t smoother in another organization.
In Canada girls have free movement. There is no “hometown hockey” for girls. You can play anywhere you like if you can make the team. This results in a lot, and I mean a lot of movement each year between teams, especially in the Greater Toronto Area where you can find six teams to play for in a 30 minute drive.
Girls hockey has too many Kings (or Queens) and too many kingdoms. Parents form associations with an agenda to help their child. Girls hockey is a talent diluted product.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t incredible organizations out there. There are plenty of them, but if you have issue with your current organization don’t expect another to fix it.
The grass is rarely greener and the ice isn’t any smoother 30 minutes down the road. Every association has problems that it would like to fix. Moving your daughter between teams every year is a recipe for disaster.
3. Find the best coach for you.
There are a lot of choices when picking which team you would like to play for, but the piece that trumps everything else is the coaching staff. Always, and I mean always, play for the coaching staff that suits your family. Every coaching staff has its own philosophy. Pick one that suits you. Play down a level to play for a better coach. There is nothing more important to your hockey and life development than the environment created by the coaching staff.
The player with the coaching staff best suited to them will go further than the player who plays up a level. Don’t chase letters. Chase coaching philosophies.
2. Play at the level that makes you happy.
Are you a BB level player, struggling as the #15 skater on a AA team? Play BB and enjoy the game. Puck touches, the ability to be the go-to player, etc. are all incredibly important.
Are you a BB level player who loves being part of the AA team and doesn’t mind the limited ice time provided to you? Then work your butt off to stay at AA.
You need to be you.
Hockey is truly about the journey and not the destination. It will all be over too soon. Don’t waste a second of your hockey career playing in an environment that isn’t fun for you.
1.- Time is the one constant in your journey.
You have the same amount of time to train as every other player. Some players may be given more or less natural talent than you. Some players may have more or less financial resources, more or less supportive environments, but you all have the same amount of time to work on your craft.
You and only you will determine what you get out of your hockey journey. If you want a scholarship, then go for it understanding what it takes to reach that goal. If you want to play B hockey because that is what you enjoy most then go at that as hard as you can.
Enjoy the ride. It will be over far too soon.
Leave No Doubt!