Olympic gold medalist Amanda Kessel is using her platform to team up with the New York Rangers and significantly grow girls hockey in at least three states.
The Rangers plan to launch the Junior Rangers Girls Hockey program this fall and Kessel, who won an Olympic gold medal in 2018 with the U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team, will serve as the official ambassador for the new program.
“I’m super excited and grateful to be part of a program like that and an organization like the Rangers,” Kessel said. “The program they’re laying out is incredible. It’s something they’re at the forefront of and I think other teams are going to end up doing more of this. It’s such a unique and great mission and I’m just excited to be part of it.”
The Rangers’ girls hockey program features several initiatives, including a new all-girls hockey league, try-hockey-for-free opportunities, tournament teams and girls hockey festivals. The new recreational league is for girls under 14 and includes 13 participating rinks in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
“Growing up, I didn’t necessarily have a chance at a young age to play with other girls,” said Kessel, a native of Madison, Wisconsin. “It’s very rare that I even had a girl on my boys’ teams. The girls who won the gold medal (on the U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team) in 1998, once I was exposed to that, all I wanted to do was meet them and be like them.”
Now, young girls will have the opportunity to meet and learn from Kessel, who herself has become one of those players to look up to after helping Team USA to its second Olympic gold medal in women’s ice hockey, scoring a goal in the shootout of the gold-medal game. The Rangers’ goal is to triple girls hockey participation throughout the area within the next three years, and Kessel plans to help through appearances, running practices, being on the ice, signing autographs, coaching, or anything else needed to help.
Kessel participates in a drill during a girls hockey clinic in Arlington, Va. following the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“It’s a huge deal,” Kessel said. “Growing up, I had people who inspired me and kept me playing hockey, and now to be in a position to be able to do that, it’s only right and it’s very fulfilling to be able to give back to the sport.”
Junior Rangers Girls Hockey is designed specifically for girls ages 11-14 and aims to encourage participation in hockey with a focus on increasing access and visibility, while developing important life skills in its players. The league, set to begin in November, is led by an all-female staff and will run 20 consecutive weeks with a game and skills session each week. The Junior Rangers will provide families with access to full and partial scholarships for the girls hockey league based on financial need.
“It’s really a lot of fun to work with the girls, and what’s cool is that they end up inspiring me,” Kessel said. “I really enjoy the times I get to work with them.”
On Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 5-6, during IIHF World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend, the Rangers will host 13 Try Hockey for Free events for girls ages 11-14. Additionally, girls from the tri-state area, between the ages of 11-12, will have the opportunity to represent the Rangers on a tournament team.
“Just their mission to inspire and empower girls of all ages through hockey is an awesome and easy mission to want to be part of,” Kessel said. “Growing up, I never would’ve really thought that I would be in this position, and sometimes I don’t realize the impact that I do have, but it’s organizations like the Rangers really wanting somebody in this position to help spread the word. It’s really humbling to know how important it was for them to find an ambassador to carry out this mission.”