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As girls’ hockey grows, Huskies Youth Hockey diversifies teams

12/05/2013, 4:45pm EST
By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com

Girls have donned the sweaters of Huskies Youth Hockey at various times over the past 15 years. It was not until recently, however, that the girls’ side really began to grow at the Gorham, Maine-based association.

Under the guidance of Girls Program Director Ruth Ann LaBrecque, the girls’ program grew enough to add a second team in 2012. Both teams played at the 14-and-under level, though, so in 2013 they had to decide whether one should switch age groups. The Huskies, who play at the University of Southern Maine Ice Arena in Gorham, watched what other organizations were doing before making their decision.

“We were waiting to see if we would break it into two 14U teams, or a 12U team, depending on what was out there with other clubs,” LaBrecque said.

With other programs in Maine producing 12-and-under teams, the Huskies decided to go with a 14U and a 12U this season rather than two 14Us.

There are 13 girls playing on the 14U team and 12 more on the 12U team that plays against three other similar clubs around Maine throughout the regular season.

“We’re able to stay in state that way,” LaBrecque said of adding the 12U team. “There’s enough teams for us that it’s not too far a distance for us to travel. We don’t have one star-studded team. We keep it age appropriate.”

Now that girls’ hockey has become a consistent part of the Huskies’ program each year, LaBrecque is concentrating on growth. She said she does not have any particular goals about adding teams at a certain age, but she just wants more girls to see what the program has to offer.

The Huskies are using different methods to try to recruit new families to the program. Youngsters in southern Maine are introduced to the sport through a Break the Ice program. Coaches and administrators are undergoing training in USA Hockey’s American Development Model.

“We have a free day of hockey and learn to skate,” LaBrecque said. “We try to entice people that way and get the word out. We’re moving toward the next step in our club. … We’re really striving to make the program more attractive and draw more people into the club.

“We have a step-up program, so they start with Break the Ice and they work their way up.”

On the youngest levels, the girls still play with the boys in a house league. As they are ready for the U12 team, the girls have a place to play together against other girls’ teams from programs in Maine and, at tournament time, elsewhere.

“We’re planting a seed for the future,” LaBrecque said. “I feel like this is going to be a clutch year for us. We have a very committed board and the coaching director we have now has just gone the extra mile.”

Nathan Spooner, the coaching director, coaches the U14 Huskies girls.

“He’s completely dedicated to making sure our organization is top-notch,” LaBrecque said. “We’re getting the right training for the coaches and making it easier for the coaches to communicate to the kids how to have fun and how to play the game of hockey.”

Mary Guimond coaches the U12 team.

LaBrecque said she expects the final schedule to work out to about 20-25 games for each team.

Playing with two U14 teams a year ago, the Huskies ended the season with one of those teams winning a tournament in Dover, N.H.

“We’re just really excited and looking forward to a great year,” LaBrecque said.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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