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7 Mar

Sled hockey women are fighting USA Hockey for recognition

Video about USA Women's Sled Hockey

March 19, 2019

On Sunday in Pyeongchang, the U.S. sled hockey team defeated Canada in a thrilling overtime game to earn Team USA’s third straight Paralympics gold.

But for 20-year-old Kelsey DiClaudio, one of the best sled hockey players in the world, watching this triumph was bittersweet.

“I’m very happy for them, I’ve played alongside those guys, I know every single one of those guys and they deserve to be there,” DiClaudio told ThinkProgress. “But at the same time, it can be very difficult to watch.”

It’s been a historic year for women’s hockey in the United States — last March, the U.S. women’s national team (USWNT) successfully held a boycott and earned a historic contract from USA Hockey, which providing the women with a level of wages, perks, and accommodations equivalent to their counterparts on the mens’ team. Last month in Pyeongchang, the USWNT matched their victory off the rink with another win for the ages, defeating Team Canada in an overtime shootout to win its first Olympic gold since 1998.

Unfortunately, these monumental victories for women in the sport have not yet trickled down to the women competing in sled hockey. Women’s sled hockey is not an official Paralympic sport, and although there is a U.S. women’s national sled hockey team, it is not officially recognized by USA Hockey.

“It just sucks, when we see the guys who have been coming to the Paralympics since 1994, and we haven’t even been recognized,” DiClaudio said.


A coed sport in name only

Only two women have ever played sled hockey in the Paralympics –Brit Mjaasund Oejen was a goalie for Norway in the sled hockey’s first appearance in the Paralympic Games, back in 1994, and Lena Schroeder, also from Norway, competed this year.

Technically, sled hockey is a coed sport. Currently, each team is permitted to have a roster of up to 17 men, but are permitted to have an 18th player if that spot goes to a female. In other words, each team competing in the Paralympics could have a woman on its roster without taking a way a single roster spot from a man. It’s telling that only one team has decided to do that.

DiClaudio began playing sled hockey when she was nine years old, and instantly fell in love with it. Like most girls in the sport, she grew up playing with the boys. It’s never bothered her. She’s been participating in USA sled hockey camps with the guys since 2011, often as the only female. In 2014, she became the first woman ever named to the U.S. Men’s National Development Sled Hockey Team, and for the next couple of years she juggled her time on the women’s national team and the men’s development team, working twice as hard as everyone else so she could keep her Paralympic dreams alive. But things didn’t turn out like she had hoped....

Read the rest of the article here

5 Mar

Gigi Marvin: Olympic gold medalist, Gophers standout joining Fox Sports North's Wild broadcasts

By Randy Johnson

March 5, 2021
Gigi Marvin played 152 games in her Gophers hockey career, but the two she missed because of injury are having a big influence a dozen years later.

"In those two games, I went upstairs and did the color in the press box,'' said Marvin, a broadcast communications major at Minnesota. "I really enjoyed doing that.''

So much so that the Warroad, Minn., native, 2005 Minnesota Ms. Hockey and Olympic gold medalist is ramping up her career in broadcasting. Fox Sports North on Monday announced that Marvin will join the network's Wild broadcast crew. Marvin, who lives in the Boston area, has worked as a color analyst on Northeastern University hockey broadcasts. She will make her debut on March 14 with Mark Parrish during the "Wild Live'' pregame and postgame shows and in the booth with Anthony LaPanta and Ryan Carter. She'll also be on the March 16 "Wild Live'' shows and will work more games once FSN's schedule is finalized.

"I'm very excited to do more games and be part of the broadcast team officially,'' said Marvin, who turns 34 on Sunday. "It's so fun and they're playing so well. It'll be nice to actually witness them in person.''

Marvin is ready to use her experience as a player to hone her broadcasting skills.

"With the Olympic teams, I've been on camera quite a bit,'' said Marvin, who won gold in Pyeongchang in 2018 and silver in Sochi in 2014 and Vancouver in 2010. "I've been on the interviewee side for so much of my life that talking in front of a camera has gotten to be second nature, but it'll be really enjoyable to learn a new skill like breaking down the game and providing more in-depth analysis. It'll be a little bit new, but it will be really fun.''

She hasn't given up on her playing career, though. Marvin moved to the Boston area in 2011 and splits time between New England and Minnesota. She's still playing hockey for the New Hampshire region of the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association, the group of high-level players across North America that is trying to start a pro league that will be on better financial footing than the NWHL. Marvin played in both Dream Gap Tour games in the New York area last weekend, including Sunday's first-ever women's professional game at Madison Square Garden. The tour moves to the Chicago area this weekend, and Saturday's 2 p.m. game between Marvin's New Hampshire team and the Minnesota region of the PWHPA will be televised on NBC Sports Network.

"We're really grateful that we're able to play some games officially and that the Dream Gap Tour has started,'' Marvin said. "We're very excited for the Chicago weekend coming up. … The whole purpose is to get a league, and a sustainable one, so we're hopeful all this is going toward that.''

A week after the Chicago tour stop, Marvin will be at Xcel Energy Center to start her FSN duties. She sees parallels between being a player and a broadcaster.

"It'll be like I always feel on game day,'' she said. "There's always some nerves – that nervous excitement. Once the puck drops, you're ready to go. I'm fully aware that's how I compete, and I'm sure that's how it's going to be when I'm broadcasting.''



3 Mar

The current state of professional women’s hockey, explained

January 19, 2021
By Alex Azzi

Later this week, the only professional women’s hockey league in North America – the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) – will begin its sixth season. All games will be played in a bubble environment at the 1980 Rink-Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, New York, the site of the iconic 1980 “Miracle on Ice” game.

But it seems unlikely that any player who competes in Lake Placid this month will travel to next year’s Beijing Olympics as a member of either the American or Canadian Olympic team.

Of the 23 players named to the U.S. roster for the 2020 World Championships (the event was ultimately called off due to COVID-19), zero are currently playing in the NWHL. Instead, 16 are members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), five are still in college, and the remaining two are playing abroad in the Zhenskaya Hockey League. Canada’s current roster tells a similar story.

So how did we get to the point where the only professional women’s hockey league in North America doesn’t include any American or Canadian Olympic hopefuls? Here’s a brief history of the saga:
Recent women’s hockey timeline:

    - Following the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics – where the U.S. women’s hockey team defeated Canada to win its first gold medal in 20 years – most American and Canadian players returned to either the NWHL (founded in 2015) or the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (founded in 2007).
    -In March 2019, the CWHL announced that it would be ceasing operations on May 1, 2019.
    -On May 2, 2019, over 200 female hockey players – including every post-grad member of the U.S. team that won Olympic gold in 2018 – announced via twitter that they would not play in any North American professional league during the 2019-20 season, essentially boycotting the NWHL. The statement pointed to low wages and lack of insurance coverage as the motivating factor: “We cannot make a sustainable living playing in the current state of the professional game. Having no health insurance and making as low as two thousand dollars a season means players can’t adequately train and prepare to play at the highest level.”   
   - On May 17, 2019, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) filed its articles of incorporation. In an announcement, the PWHPA said its goal was to “provide financial and infrastructure resources to players; protect and support their rights and talents; provide health insurance; and work with companies, business leaders, and sports professionals worldwide who already have voiced support for women’s hockey.”
  - Beginning in September 2019 and continuing until March 2020, PWHPA players competed in a series of exhibition tournaments called the “Dream Gap Tour.”
  - On October 5, 2019, the NWHL began its fifth season. Each of the league’s five teams played 24 games (up from 16 the previous season). The championship game between Boston and Minnesota, originally scheduled for March 13, 2020, was ultimately cancelled due to COVID-19....

Learn More: The Current State of Women's Professional Hockey Explained

1 Mar

March is Women's History Month

In celebration of Women's History Month, SPCHA will post articles & links focusing on women who have impacted the great sport of hockey.

Our aim is to highlight leaders & change-makers in our sport that may be overlooked. If you know of such a girl or woman you'd like to see highlighted, please send an email to Gina at spcha.dei@gmail.com.


History of Women's Ice Hockey

Video: This is who I am

Most  people  are  surprised  to  learn  that  women’s  ice  hockey  has  a  history  that  dates  back  more  than  120  years,  beginning  with  the earliest known film image of women involved in a game of ice hockey — featuring Isobel Preston, daughter of Lord Stanley Preston (of Stanley Cup lore), playing hockey on a flooded lawn in the winter of 1890.

There  is  little  doubt  that  women  played  the  sport  well  before  the  first newspaper account of a game between two unnamed women’s teams appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on Feb. 11, 1891. After much research, that game, which was played in Ottawa, Ontario, is now regarded as the start of women’s ice hockey.

Over the span of more than a century, girls and women have pursued their interest in the sport, and today that segment continues to be one of the fastest-growing in USA Hockey.A look back at the history of the women’s game reveals an amazing evolution, with the best yet to come for females involved in the sport.

GRASSROOTS ICE HOCKEY

During  the  1990-91  season,  5,573  female  ice  hockey  players  registered with USA Hockey. Since then, that number has increased more than 10 times with nearly 73,000 registered girls and women playing ice hockey across the United States today. While the number of  girls’/women’s  teams  has  grown  significantly,  some  females  continue to play on mixed-gender teams.

THE INTERNATIONAL SCENE

As far back as 1916, women’s ice hockey teams from Canada and the U.S. have competed against each other. The 1980s, however, propelled  women’s  ice  hockey  into  the  future.  In  April  1987,  the  Ontario  Women’s  Hockey  Association  hosted  the  first  World  Invitational Tournament, which proved to be a resounding success. During that tournament, representatives from participating nations met to discuss the future of women’s ice hockey and to establish a strategy to lobby the International Ice Hockey Federation for the creation of a Women’s World Championship.

Those  discussions  led  to  the  first-ever  IIHF  Women’s  World  Championship, which was held in March 1990 in Ottawa. In 2005, the U.S. defeated Canada in a shootout to win its first-ever world title. Team USA has won seven of the last eight world championships.

Learn More: USA Hockey Play Girls' Hockey Brochure


28 Feb

Hockey Day Minnesota: February 27, 2021

Image: (Left) IZ (Isaiah) Forman, Squirt A,  with (right) fellow Capital, Benjamin Bjardi, Pee Wee C. Photo Credit: Gina Forman

Hockey Day MN 2021:

Matt Dumba's Hockey Without Limits camp celebrates diversity & inclusion

by Gina Forman (mom to Isaiah)


"Hockey day is especially special this year for the Forman family. My brother, Caleb Theesfeld #44, played for Johnson High School in the very first MN Hockey Day in 2007. Isaiah was able to participate in his very first MN Hockey Day events and camp 14 years to the day that his uncle paved the way to play in the first hockey day game.

Today, Matt Dumba held a camp specifically for bringing diversity to hockey. This camp had girls, Native Americans, Latinos, African Americans, Creoles, Asian Americans, Jewish, White, multiracial, and many other cultural groups. It was beautiful to see all these kids and families all joined together united as one to play hockey. It was even more special being there representing Saint Paul Capitals and being able to have meaningful conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We met a new Caps family with a player named  Ben Bjardi and his mother Kimberly that were able to celebrate with us and had great conversation. Kimberly and I realized we have so much more in common than different. We realized our sons go to the same school, both have ties to Jonson High School, and have family with the same names!

There was a man from Forest Lake whose family looks a lot like ours ( with a brown mama and a white dad) you never see that at most hockey events- but it was normal at Dumba’s Camp.  One little girl's mom told me that her daughters were so excited to go to the Dumba camp to play on the ice on a day where they would blend in and not stand out culturally or with their gender. This day meant a lot even to the youngest players.

A Native dad showed me the pictures of him as a youth playing hockey. He was so proud to be a part of the sport and was clear that his people, Native Americans also love hockey.

This has been a challenging year for all Americans but especially for those in our country that have historically been oppressed or marginalized and deal with racism every day all day in their lives. Hockey Day MN at the Matt Dumba Camp allowed hockey players and families to have a few hours to be free of the pain, trauma, and burdens they may have felt this past year and let them feel diversity being celebrated in hockey. What a amazing blessing to receive. Thank you Matt Dumba for working hard so that all Caps families can enjoy this experience together next year. Go Caps! "

View WCCO Coverage of Dumba's Hockey Day MN Camp & Isaiah


27 Feb

Chris Nelson: Driven by Entrepreneurial Spirit

February 11, 2021

An Entrepreneurial Spirit Drives Wisconsin’s Chris Nelson
 
The University of Wisconsin’s Chris Nelson helped the Badgers to the 1990 NCAA title in ice hockey found an array of life experiences and career opportunities through the sport.

Trying to break into baseball, basketball or football would have been much simpler. But former University of Wisconsin standout defenseman Chris Nelson wanted to become the first African American player to play ice hockey in the National Hockey League and at the Olympics.

“We’re talking 1987 when I set those goals,’’ said Nelson, “It’s like kids saying they want to be firefighters when they grow up.”

Nelson began his hockey career at age three in Hanover, New Hampshire, where his parents worked at Dartmouth College. When his parents acquired faculty positions with the University of California, Los Angeles, they warned their rising sixth grader that he would probably have to give up hockey when they moved to sunny Southern California.

“Ironically, we moved about two blocks from a hockey rink and they were having tryouts at the time,’’ he says. “I made the team, got better and better and then started making travel and all-star teams. I was spotted by a college scout and he advised me to hone my skills by going to a prep school.’’

Nelson followed the scout’s advice and transferred to the Cranbrook School in Bloomfield, Michigan, for his sophomore and junior years of high school. While at Cranbrook, Nelson was selected in the fifth round by the New Jersey Devils in the 1988 NHL entry draft.  Despite his desire to carve a path for African American athletes in professional ice hockey, he declined. “My parents were all about making sure I got a college education.’’

Around the same time, Nelson began receiving letters of interest from Wisconsin head coach Jeff Sauer. “I was a scrawny 162-pound kid and I figured I needed better competition before I headed off to Wisconsin,’’ he said of his decision to spend a gap year in the U.S. Hockey League (USHL). “Coach Sauer told me one year, not two or three, but only one year of Junior Hockey.”

His experience playing with the Rochester Minnesota Mustangs in 1987 presented Nelson some tough challenges. “We were playing in a lot of small towns, where people weren’t as socially acceptable to people of color in general,’’ he said. Still, Nelson made the USHL all-star team and toured Switzerland with the elite team that year.

Learn More: Chris Nelson, Ice Hockey

26 Feb

Tony McKegney: Black History Month essay

February 11, 2021

Editor's note: As part of the NHL celebrating Black History Month throughout February, NHL.com will present first-person essays by some of the game's key Black players and executives. Today, Tony McKegney, the first Black player to score 40 goals in an NHL season, tells his story of overcoming racial bias and serving as inspiration for Jarome Iginla, the only other Black player to hit the 40-goal milestone. 

"There was nothing special about the goal. It barely made it over the line. I remember I was tired when a shot from the point came my way. It was a simple chip-in that just dribbled through the goalie's pads.

But I cherish everything about that goal that found my stick in the last minute of the last game of my 1987-88 season with the St. Louis Blues.

Because you never forget scoring 40 in one year.

It was a personal best for me -- the first and only time I'd join the NHL's 40-goal club. In retrospect, I can now see how it was an important milestone for people who look like me: No Black player had ever scored 40 goals in a season … not until that game against Winnipeg, where a little chip-in ended up making history.

Back in 1988, I'm not sure if I realized what it really meant. Still, I'd been thinking about that particular goal mark for a while. When the last road trip started, I thought about how meaningful it would be to end the season with a goal total that was a round number. Of course, I also thought about the bonus clause in my contract, which promised $15,000 if I happened to score 40 goals (that was a lot of money in those days).

So I found myself focused on a number, 40, throughout the last stretch of games. Hockey was like that for me -- I was constantly focused on numbers. Even now, when I tell the story of the 1987-1988 season, I use a lot of numbers to explain why the season turned out so special.

There were five centermen on that team who were great passers, and when you're playing with so many good centermen, you're going to get chances every game.

There were three future Hall of Famers who made us all better.  

It was my 10th season in the League, and I'd gotten more comfortable over time.

Numbers, however, never tell the whole story. They're too neat; too objective. Reality doesn't always add up.

It certainly didn't add up when I was moving to St. Louis before the start of the season.

One house seemed perfect for me and my wife, Sue. We were all set to move, until the homeowner told us there was a problem: They didn't want to rent to us once they found out we were a biracial couple.

The subtext of the situation was clear: Because I'm a Black man, there were certain things the homeowner felt like I couldn't or shouldn't do. And I know they weren't alone in their thoughts. Previously, in the early '80s, one of my team's assistant coaches advised me to start dating a Black woman instead of Sue for similarly ignorant and bigoted reasons.

I ignored that coach, of course. And it wasn't hard to find a different place to live in St. Louis, which is a wonderful city that I've always enjoyed. But the homeowner's and the coach's comments were unwelcomed reminders that people were constantly viewing me through the lens of my race -- even when I just wanted to be a home renter, or a hockey player.

It can be difficult to talk about how those views affect you as a person. During my career, I know I tried my hardest not to think about them at all. My mindset was focused on maintaining a consistent level of play to succeed in the National Hockey League. Playing hockey at a high level is difficult enough without navigating the pressures of racism in society or figuring out how to respond to the supposed "fan" with a sign that says, "McKegney, grab a basketball" behind the Zamboni entrance.

So I did the only thing I could do: I focused on perseverance. I relied on the support of my teammates who were always there for me. And I followed the advice that the great Willie O'Ree has given so many times: channel your energy into lighting the red light.

I'd been chasing that red light since I started playing hockey at 3 years old. My mother and father -- who adopted me from an orphanage in Montreal, and who happen to be white -- built a hockey rink in our backyard every winter, where I'd skate with my siblings...."

Learn More: First Black player to score 40 goals in an NHL season on overcoming bias, inspiring others

25 Feb

Black Women seeing growth of numbers in NCAA hockey

By William Douglas

February 9, 2021

Kelsey Koelzer said she's been pleasantly surprised by what she's seen on recruiting trips as coach of Arcadia University's new women's hockey team: more Black girls playing the game.

"As I'm recruiting, I feel I'm constantly shocked that it's getting less and less out of the ordinary to see girls that are getting recruited to NCAA [Division I] who are (Black)," said Koelzer, a former Princeton University player who is the first Black woman to coach an NCAA hockey team and in 2016 became the first Black player to be chosen No. 1 in the National Women's Hockey League draft. "I think it's a really hopeful sign."

Kelsey Koelzer moves the puck for Princeton.

Koelzer and others say they are seeing a slow but steady increase in the number of Black players in women's college hockey in the United States, fueled in part by the growth in girls hockey worldwide and a greater emphasis on making the sport more diverse, inclusive and welcoming for players of color.

There are at least 13 Black players on NCAA Division I and Division III women's hockey rosters this season, up from four in 2019 and surpassing the nine who played in 2015, according to the NCAA demographic database.

Players this season include University of Wisconsin defenseman Chayla Edwards, Clarkson University defenseman Avery Mitchell, University of New Hampshire forward Tamara Thierus, Syracuse University forward Rayla Clemons, Lindenwood University forward Jada Burke, Finlandia University defenseman India Charles, Yale University forward Kiersten Goode, Augsburg University forward Kensie Malone, State University of New York-Plattsburgh defenseman Sierra Benjamin, Nazareth College forward Maria Di Cresce, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute forward Asiah Taylor-Waters, Lindenwood University defenseman Teagan Heaslip and Dartmouth College forward Jennifer Costa.

"The numbers are fun to see because younger girls out there, they're trying to find their role models but sometimes people have a hard time seeing themselves in others," said Thierus, a 20-year-old sophomore from St. Jerome, Quebec. "I know as a young girl I would have loved to see someone like me play at a high level. I'm happy someone can look at me and say, 'I want to be like this when I'm older.'"

Hockey traditionally has been a lonely path for young Black girls. They're most likely to be the only one or one of the few players of color on their teams, said Mitchell, a 21-year-old senior who helped Clarkson win the NCAA championship in 2018 and finished second with Canada at the 2017 IIHF Under-18 Women's World Championship.

"I definitely think it's just the matter of it not being encouraged enough and it's a sort of stereotype that hockey is more a sport for white people, which is not true," Mitchell said. "I think it's a matter of not being encouraged and not seeing representation."

That's starting to change, said Blake Bolden, a former Boston College defenseman who became the first Black player in the NWHL in 2015 and the first Black first-round draft pick in the Canadian Women's Hockey League in 2013. She calls the growing presence of Black women on college rosters "exciting and amazing."

"Girls hockey has grown tremendously over the last few years so I think it's inevitable that there would be more diversity in the game. Not tons, but it's an improvement, so that's good," said Bolden, who became the first Black female NHL pro scout when she was hired by the Los Angeles Kings in February 2020.

Learn More: Black Women see growth of numbers in NCAA hockey

23 Feb

Arlette Roxburgh: still stirring as Devils national anthem singer

By William Johnson

February 14, 2021

Lou Lamoriello knows a thing or two about hockey talent. He's apparently a pretty good musical talent scout, too.

The then-president and general manager of the New Jersey Devils was walking down Second Avenue in Manhattan in 1998 when he was drawn into a restaurant where he discovered Arlette, a Trinidad-born singer who was performing in perfect Italian.

"The doors were open [to] the restaurant and I heard this beautiful voice," said Lamoriello, now GM of the New York Islanders. "I decided to go in just to listen to her. And then she came over to say hello, and that's history. I said, 'Would you like to sing the national anthem at a game?' She said, 'I'd love to.'"

More than two decades later, Arlette is still performing as the popular official national anthem singer for the Devils. She is among the longest-tenured anthem singers in the NHL, belting out "The Star-Spangled Banner" for New Jersey through its Stanley Cup championship seasons in 1999-00 and 2002-03 at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, through the Devils' move to Prudential Center in Newark.

In that span, Arlette, whose full name is Arlette Roxburgh, has morphed from a hockey novice who "knew less than zero" about the game into a true aficionado.

"I don't know if I can do commentary like (former NHL goalie and Devils radio analyst) Chico Resch or (Devils play-by-play announcer) Steve Cangialosi," she said. "But I can definitely appreciate when a power play is great, I can appreciate the intricacies behind the lines, putting the right people together and how putting the right people together makes magic and chemistry."

She also has developed a fondness for Devils players and staff, past and present. She calls Martin Brodeur, the Hockey Hall of Fame goalie and New Jersey's executive vice president and adviser, "My crush for 20 years." Lamoriello is simply "Uncle Lou."

Arlette loves the game so much, she has been performing the national anthem live at Prudential Center this season, when some singers for other teams have been performing remotely or producing prerecorded renditions of the U.S. and Canadian anthems due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus....

Learn More: Color of Hockey


6 Feb

Jay Sharrers: First Black NHL Official

Jay Sharrers didn’t set out to make history; he just wanted to be part of the game he loved. When, as a teenager, it was clear that he wouldn’t make it to hockey’s elite level as a player, he simply vowed to get the NHL anyway he could.

At 16, he traded his hockey sweater for pinstripes. Six years later — after rising rapidly through the minor-hockey ranks, officiating in the Memorial Cup and at the World Juniors, and advancing through the minor pros —  Sharrers stepped onto the ice at the Boston Garden as the Bruins took on the Quebec Nordiques. It was Oct. 6, 1990. Sharrers, just 22 years old, became the first black official ever to work in the NHL. At the time, he didn’t think too much about it. When his thoughts strayed from the game itself, he was mostly focused on the fact that his boyhood idol, Guy Lafleur, was on the same ice as him, playing with the Nordiques in his final NHL season.

“For those first couple of years — being young and making the jump as quickly as I did — I really had to focus on not being star-struck by the guys I was on the ice with,” Sharrers says. “You had to try to not be a spectator and remember that you still had a job to do.”

Learn More: Whatever It Takes

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