Special to USA Hockey
“What is it like to be a woman in the world of hockey?" “What would you tell a girl who wants to play professionally?” “How do we get to a place where women can play hockey professionally full-time?”
These were just a few of the questions that were asked at a Title IX 50th Anniversary celebration and panel discussion at the New York Islanders’ official practice facility, Northwell Health Ice Center, in East Meadow, N.Y. in the fall of 2022. Moderated by Jamie Hersch, host of NHL Network, the event was geared toward female athletes who want to turn hockey into a career.
The guests of honor were 100 members of the New York Islanders Girls Elite Travel Hockey teams who, along with their parents, celebrated 50 years since Title IX was passed (June 23, 2022 officially marked the 50th Anniversary). With the help of a panel of four women working in the hockey business, they learned how Title IX has helped women in sports, saw models for what's possible, and discussed how much work is left to reach equality in the sport.
A former player herself, Alexis Moed established the New York Islanders Girls Elite Hockey program in 2016 to support the development of girls’ hockey in New York. On top of being the president for the program, she’s also the general manager of the Premier Hockey Federation’s (PHF) Connecticut Whale.
Over the course of just six years, she's seen the program grow and thrive. When she started the program, there were just two teams and 25 girls.
"Now we're up to over a hundred girls," Moed said.
All of them were invited to the 50th anniversary celebration, where many of them learned what Title IX was for the first time.
Yet, the girls came with a keen understanding of the current landscape of the hockey world, according to Hersch. She was pleasantly surprised by the girls at the event, who were interested in hearing about their options to continue playing or working in hockey.
"They had some really great questions," she said. "The girls were so curious and so eager."
When the time came for the girls to ask questions and meet the panelists, Hersch said they made a beeline for the players, including Kelly Nash, a two-time national champion at the University of Wisconsin and current women’s hockey head coach at Long Island University.
The attendees were given an education in how they can turn hockey into a full-time career, even if they're not playing. Lea del Rosario, senior vice president of human resources for the New York Islanders and UBS Arena, and Dr. Amy West, board-certified sports medicine physiatrist at Northwell Health, served as examples of the many ways they can stay involved.
They also served as reminders of how far women have come since Title IX was passed in 1972. When Hersch's mother was growing up, her only options for participating in sports were cheerleading and gymnastics.
"There really isn't anything keeping girls from getting involved in hockey," Hersch said. "That is the positive of Title IX."
In the broadcasting world, Hersch has seen a lot of growth. She remembers growing up and watching the Minnesota Vikings and seeing very few women in sports broadcasting. The few women she did see — women who were knowledgeable about the game and were respected by their peers and the players — provided a path for her.
"I don't think it's as strange anymore to turn on your TV and see a woman talking about sports,” she said. "It's been a really rewarding and fun ride, but I wouldn't be here without the women who came before me.”
By showing the girls different ways women can now get involved in hockey, the event tied generations together.
"I think it's important to remind all of the generations that come through what it is and how they're impacted by it," Moed said. "I do think that they had an appreciation after that night of Title IX and what the generations before them have accomplished and how they've benefited from that."
That appreciation was shown when one girl came up to the microphone and thanked the panelists before asking her question.
There is still a long way to go toward achieving equality in the sport. Moed said the PHF "is already on a great path," but there’s work to be done to make sure it continues to grow.
"I really hope that in the next 5-10 years we see that that pro league is here to stay," she said.
Salary caps have gone up, which is a welcome development, she said. But she wants to see the quality of the league continue to rise, as well as gaining more sponsorships and more fans.
If the Islanders girls are any indication, the future of women's hockey is in good hands.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Jamie Hersch answers questions from the players
Kelly Nash speaks with girls at the event