When the old Yankee Conference Hockey League in Massachusetts fell apart after the 2002-03 season, Kathy and Ronnie Cincotta bought it.
“We sat on it for a year because Ronnie didn’t know what to do with it,” Kathy said. Before the league ended, its teams were in the lowest divisions. However, the league came with four sheets of ice at the Nashoba Valley Olympia.
So the Cincottas reached out to Ray Shea and Steve Palmatti. They were running Massachusetts District 9 girls’ hockey in which any girl could play. But, according to Kathy Cincotta, even though it did provide a place for girls to play, it was more along the lines of “pickup hockey.”
“Ronnie talked to Ray and Steve and this girls’ league was hatched for the 2004-05 season,” Kathy Cincotta said. “All of the coaches decided to try this new league and came over to what is now the Middlesex Yankee Conference Girls Hockey League.”
Kathy Cincotta is now the director of the new MYCGHL. And no longer do MYCGHL teams only play in the lowest divisions.
In that initial season the league consisted of 15 teams from six towns. Now fast forward to the 2012-13 season. A total of 149 teams from more than 40 cities and towns that span the alphabet from Acton-Boxboro to Woburn encompassing more than 1,400 girls from Under-10 to Under-14 fall under the MYCGHL umbrella. And these figures don’t include the pre-season high school division that was added five years ago.
“We started with about 10 U-18 teams and since its preseason ends before Thanksgiving girls can play for their high school teams,” Cincotta said. “Eventually, it just took off.
“This season we have six U-18 divisions ranging from upper varsity going down to junior varsity Double A.”
Not surprisingly, the MYCGHL is the largest league of its kind in New England. Organization is a major reason why the league has expanded at such a rapid rate.
“It’s very organized,” Cincotta said. “They get their schedules enough in advance so they can plan. Boys will play on a frozen parking lot. Girls need all the stars aligned and everything perfectly placed, and they’ll say we’ll play.
“They like the experience and the competition is good. They’re very aware of teams that can’t compete at a certain level and, certainly, I don’t want blowouts so the girls have a good experience.”
Currently on the proverbial drawing board is a plan to add a half/full season U-16 division depending on the number of teams interested in joining.
“My aim is to grow the program in southern New Hampshire and southern Maine where they don’t have high school teams,” Cincotta said. “Also, in Massachusetts there are some towns that don’t have girls’ hockey at the high school level.
“It would provide an opportunity. I’m looking to incorporate the junior varsity high school teams because their scheduling isn’t very organized. It’s a matter of getting the word out.”
Cincotta, who admittedly “loves this league,” realizes each association has its own goals and philosophies. But while she feels some associations focus on developing girls to play college hockey, she has a goal of her own that would mirror the top level of boys’ hockey in Massachusetts.
“First and foremost, we want to give girls coming into the league and who are playing hockey for the first time the opportunity to develop a love for the game and to have fun,” she said. “It’s more of a social thing for girls than boys.
“But as these feeder programs grow, they morph into good high school teams. I would love to see a Super 8 [Tournament] for girls’ teams. There are some very good high school teams out there and their roots came from playing girls’ youth hockey.”
Cincotta related one anecdote that underscores the popularity of the league.
“About six years ago, the director of Wellesley girls’ hockey called me,” she said. “He had a team of 9- and 10-year old girls. We talked for two weeks and I was trying to talk him into putting his girls in our league.
“They only won two games that season. But they stayed together and last season they won the Massachusetts U-19 state championship. It was such a nice feeling that this team went all the way to the state championship. If they had not joined our league, they might have disbanded.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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