GLEN ELLYN, Ill. — After an hour of practice one recent night at the Center Ice of DuPage in the western suburbs of Chicago, Admirals Hockey Club 14 & Under tri-captains Ava Gawley, Kiana Veigler and Mackenzi Heisner wore big smiles.
And why not? For the first time the Admirals, who are based at the ice rink in Glen Ellyn, have two full girls’ teams at the 14U and 12U levels. And on that recent night they had just completed a practice session that utilized multiple skills-learning stations in USA Hockey American Development Model style.
“I‘m actually really excited because this is my first time being on a girls’ team,” Heisner said. “I‘m just excited to be a part of it all.”
The increase in girls’ players will really pay off for the Admirals Hockey Club on Oct. 12, when it hosts a 4x4 Showcase tournament as a part of the third annual World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend celebration. At least two outside teams in the 12U and 14U age groups will also participate in the one-day tournament.
“This is the first time we‘ve been able to kind of officially sign up to help celebrate Girls Hockey Weekend,” said Susan Gawley, the Admirals’ girls’ hockey and Admirals United coordinator.
The international event began in 2011 as World Girls’ Hockey Day and has grown in the last two years under the umbrella of the International Ice Hockey Federation and in the United States with USA Hockey. Thousands of girls took part in the 2012 event internationally.
“I think it’s very exciting that we get to be a part of this showcase to remember girls’ hockey because not a lot of girls started off playing hockey,” said Ava Gawley, the daughter of Susan and Kurt Gawley, the 14U head coach. “And now we have a much bigger organization. This is the first Admirals girls’ 14U team and 12U team. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The color of the weekend will most definitely be pink. The Showcase will be a part of the Pink of the Rink celebration for both girls’ and boys’ teams that weekend in support of breast cancer research. Pink laces will be used on skates, pink tape on sticks, pink water bottles on the benches. Pink will be the color of the socks.
In addition to Susan and Kurt Gawley, tournament organizers include Jeff Schoner, president of the Admirals Hockey Club, and Jerry Culp, head coach of the Admirals 12U girls’ team. The ice sheet at the Center Ice of DuPage will be split into two, using the half-ice boards obtained from USA Hockey.
The Admirals Hockey Club has hosted tournaments before, but never a girls’ showcase.
“This girls one is going to be new to us, but it’s exciting,” Schoner said. “We have a couple of teams coming in. We’re going to put the half [ice] boards up. We’ll do some four-on-four stuff between our 12Us and 14Us.”
The club actively supports girls’ hockey and recruits new players who are still learning to play the game. The girls practice with boys. Their practice sessions include station-based practices based on the ADM model, in addition to 90-minute dry-land training sessions every other week.
“They’re being challenged, they’re being pushed,” Susan Gawley said. “They get the speed of the game from the boys. I like to say, they train with the boys and they play with the girls. They really get the best of both worlds. They get all of these great coaches, Matt Noga, Chad Green, Jeff Schoner.
“They get to practice skating, stick handling, shooting, passing, all in one 60-minute practice. They never stop. They feel like they’re being paid attention to. They get to be creative, they get to be challenged and they get to do everything that embodies what hockey is.”
Providing multiple hours of practice time for the girls was never a question.
“The girls are just as important as the boys, so we gave the girls just as much ice time as all the boys teams,” Schoner said. “They’re on the ice five days a week. Why shouldn’t they be, you know?”
Practices are run using the ADM practice plans provided by USA Hockey. It is a quick-moving environment that keeps all the players learning and practicing.
“We try to improve the overall player. We’re not taking up the whole ice to work on breakouts,” said Tom Galvin, a former professional player and University of Notre Dame player who is now the Admirals ADM Hockey Director. “It‘s really important that we preach the fundamentals and we keep them moving and quick. Our stations are about 8 to 10 minutes with about 5 to 8-minute warm-ups.”
“I’m getting a lot of great feedback. The girls work really hard.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.