Youth hockey programs in Marathon Country in north- central Wisconsin’s Marathon County are scattered, and . Up until the early 2000s, opportunities for all-girls hockey were scarce.even scarcer.
The Central Wisconsin Storm has filled that void, specifically for girls living in Everest, Mosinee and Wausau.
“The Storm offers these three communities, as well as outlying areas, the opportunity to learn and play girls’ hockey,” said Storm committee member Brenda Piskula, noting that the next closest team is in Stevens Point, at least an hour’s drive to the south.
The Storm first stepped on the ice for the 2003–04 season and included girls from Everest, Mosinee and Wausau. More girls signed up to play the following season, which enabled the Storm to field teams at the Under-10, U12, and U14 levels.
Then, two seasons later, each team qualified for the state tournament, with the U10 and U12 teams each finishing second. That scenario was repeated in the 2006–07 season, with the U10 team capturing the Storm’s first state championship. The U12 team won its first state title in 20after the 2007–08 season while and the U14 team finished third.
With the surge in interest, the Storm played a big role in creating a local high school varsity team. The Storm name is also used for a co-operative team of four area high schools: D.C. Everest, Mosinee, and Wausau East and Wausau West.
”I think all of the girls are excited to play at the high school level,” Piskula said. “HBy having the youth program it only helps to build the friendships and the teamwork that they’ll need in high school. They’ll get an early start at it.
“[The Central Wisconsin Storm] absolutely serves as a feeder program. If you take away the youth program, then you don’t have a high school team.”
Wauasu West boys’ coach Pete Susens is leading the girls’ co-op team this season. Susens is Wisconsin’s winningest prep hockey coach with 573 career victories on his résumé.
Despite the success enjoyed by the Storm, winning championships isn’t the organization’s primary purpose.
“TI think the focus is on skill development, which leads to teams having winning records,” Piskula said. “The focus isn’t on winning. You must have skill development in order to get there.
“We’re committed to maximizing skills development of our young girls in a positive atmosphere of fun, competition, sportsmanship and equal participation.”
One way the Storm encourages girls to become interested in this sport is by holding try-hockey-for-free days.
“We held two try-hockey-for-free programs last season,” Piskula said. “We’re doing this to get girls interested in hockey at a younger level.
“We look forward to getting more girls involved in hockey and to help make hockey a positive life experience.”
Playing on the Olympic-sized rink in Everest has been another advantage for the storm, Piskula said.
After starting the program playing on a smaller rink, Piskula said they soon learned that the bigger rink suited all levels of the program better. The various teams also don’t have to travel all over the area for practices and games.
The next step for the Storm is to get more girls to try playing hockey and persuade them to play for a high-level, all-girls team, Piskula said.
“I don’t think it has to do with other sports,” she said when asked if it’s difficult to get girls to register with the Storm. “It’s a matter of getting girls interested in hockey at an early age.
“Then it’s a personal preference if they want to play with a girls’ program or on a boys’ team. Some enjoy the camaraderie they get with playing on a girls team. Our goal is to make this the most desired girls hockey association in Wisconsin.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc