Youth hockey has boomed in the Dallas area since the Minnesota North Stars relocated to North Texas in 1993, a fact highlighted when Plano native Seth Jones went fourth in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft — the highest ever for a Texas-born player.
The growth of girls’ hockey in the area has come a bit slower, but thanks to programs such as the Lone Star Lady Wolves, based in the Dallas suburb of Grapevine, that is changing.
The brainchild of Scott Hullum, the Lady Wolves program has played a crucial role in providing opportunities for girls in the Metroplex to get involved in hockey. The Lady Wolves are one of the few programs in the state where girls can play on an all-girls team as opposed to starting out on a boys’ team.
“I saw around the DFW area, there were maybe one here, one there — seven or eight all together — and I just noticed the girls were always on the bench when it came to crunch time,” noted Hullum, the Lady Wolves’ hockey director who launched the program in 2008. “It aggravated me more than anything. In my opinion, the girls had more to offer than the coaches were letting them, and I just thought, ‘I’m just going to develop girls hockey.’ Then my daughter got into it, and I really wanted a place for her to play.”
Although the growth process might not have accelerated at quite the pace Hullum initially envisioned, tremendous progress has been made, which is enhanced by a recent agreement with the Dallas Stars Elite program that has benefited both organizations.
“The program is not where I want it to be,” Hullum admitted. “After six years, I was hoping it’d be better, but I started with three girls, and this year I’ll probably have about 30-40 girls in the program. Of course, some of them age out, so I’m really focused on U12, and then the Dallas Stars Elites have come in and helped me.
“We do a partnership, so I’m really helping the girls to go over to the Elites, who focus on U14, U16, U19. It’s been a great partnership. I’m taking girls from Learn to Skate, through Mites, through Squirt, through Peewee and this year, the Elites didn’t have a U14 program, so a lot of those girls went and played with boys, but some of the girls said they wanted to play together, which is why we have a co-ed Bantam team.”
Following USA Hockey’s American Development Model has been especially effective with the Lady Wolves girls in terms of skill development — even more so than with boys, Hullum discovered.
“That actually benefits the girls more than the boys because it’s more structure,” Hullum said. “I could have the boys and girls on the ice at the same time, and the boys, it’s like herding cats. I could put the girls in one group and it’ll be more structured, they’re focused, they’re pushing hard.
“It’s hard to keep the boys focused, but the girls, it’s just unbelievable. It is so much easier to coach girls, to teach girls, and almost 100 percent of the girls walk away with a life lesson in hand. With the girls, it’s really fun to tell people how much they are into helping each other be like sisters.”
Hullum capitalizes on that increased sense of camaraderie among the girls to perpetuate the growth process by having the older girls helping to teach the younger ones.
“I have a mentoring program, the older girls come out and help the younger girls,” Hullum said. “My girls’ travel team would come to Mites and Squirt practices and the younger girls were all excited. And then the parents were telling me, ‘My daughter’s more responsible at home, she more mature, I see her helping people in the neighborhood.’ Because the older girls saw that what they were doing began inspiring the younger kids, they wanted to do that away from hockey. To me, it’s become like a life lesson for these girls.”
In addition to the life lessons, of course, the girls are also improving on the ice, often playing against boys’ teams. Hullum described the way his U12 team progressed last season as an example.
“Last year, I took our girls to Minnesota and we played in an all-girls tournament,” Hullum said. “With four Peewee-age girls and eight Squirt girls, the Dallas Stars Travel Hockey League made us play Peewee because we had the four Peewee-age girls. We went 0-20 playing travel hockey in an all-boys league, but when we went to Minnesota and played in a Peewee tournament, we finished third out of eight teams.
“This summer, we went and played in a Tier I AAA tournament for U12, eight [girls] teams from Canada and the U.S., and we finished fourth. The girls themselves don’t measure their success with wins and losses, they measure their success with how we are progressing, what we do as a team. They finished fourth, but if they had played in a lower division, they would have won it, but they didn’t want to do that, they wanted to be challenged.”
With that kind of attitude fueling it, there’s little doubt the girls’ game will continue to flourish in Texas.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.