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Female Hockey Leaders Connect at Game On Women’s Leadership Summit

By Nicole Haase, 04/24/24, 12:30PM MDT


The fourth annual summit was held during the final weekend of the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Utica.

The fourth Game On Women's Leadership Summit was held in conjunction with the final weekend of the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Utica, New York. With a focus of empowering women in hockey together, the summit offers continuing education hours for women at all levels of coaching and administration. 

The annual event hosted by USA Hockey, provides current and future female leaders tangible tools to enhance the leadership development efforts of female volunteers. Participants from around the country gathered in Utica to hear from leaders in the game and participate in breakout sessions on topics including leadership habits, self-care, mentorship, networking, personal development, inclusion, confidence, building trust, connecting with your community and growing the game.

“As girls and women’s hockey participation continues to grow, we want to ensure that the people involved in that growth have a voice and dedicated place to increase their leadership skills,” said Katie Holmgren, USA Hockey’s director of program services. “It’s fun to have seen the network of passionate hockey people grow after each summit and hear the feedback on how participants have taken skills they learn back to their respective areas.”

It is a priority to hold the summit alongside a major women’s hockey event, Holmgren said. The summit has been held in conjunction with Rivalry Series games in the past, but tying the event to the Women’s World Championship elevated it even more. 

“Having so many additional passionate hockey fans in town as well as our friends and counterparts from the IIHF added a special buzz in the same community,” Holmgren said.   

For first-time attendee Kristi Kehoe, director of the Anaheim Lady Ducks program, the summit offered an opportunity to make connections, widen her network and connect with women going through many of the same challenges and wins her program is. California’s size and location can mean she can feel isolated from a wider hockey community. Asking for help or someone to share ideas with often means cold calls or random emails to people she has never met. But the summit put her in a room with many of her peers. 

“There's probably no better hockey environment to be a part of for somebody in our shoes,” Kehoe said. “It is a really great opportunity for development — professional development, personal development, for youth hockey coaches and those that are kind of in the trenches with the younger kids.”

A big takeaway for Kehoe was a conversation led by U.S. Under-18 National Team and Dartmouth head coach Liz Keady Norton about leading by example that centered the attendees. Kehoe said it was a good reminder that the girls in her program see all the behaviors she and her staff model. They often talk about mental health to the young players in their organizations, but Kehoe realized that it needs to be a focus for coaches, administrators and volunteers, as well. 

“We have to show them with our actions that it's OK to be selfish and have some self-care and the ways that we can do that in a positive way for our kids to reflect,” she said. “So often we think that we're just doing that on the ice or with life skills, but it really is a holistic process. It has been fun to hear the different perspectives and views on how we can tailor what we do to impact the kids a little bit more.”

Shawna Prather, the diversity equality and inclusion coordinator and safe sport director for Wyoming Hockey, lives several hours away from any other associations. Her daughter is the only girl in their association at her age level. 

For her, the summit was about discovering community and building a network of like-minded women. She was reminded that they are not alone and there are more girls and women in hockey out there. Finding fellowship and camaraderie and getting to experience a celebration of girls and women in hockey at the World Championship is something she’d been sharing with her daughter via text message and left her more energized. 

“At the summit, there has been a lot of talk about Indigenous support and that has been really great,” Prather said. “I've cried a couple times just listening to the talk about diversity, equity and inclusion and how much it means to other people, because it means a lot to me. Those conversations are happening [in Wyoming] but they're not happening at the amount that we should be having them and it's all new there for a lot of people.”

In her role, it can feel like there are extra barriers and hurdles, so it was important for Prather to hear presentations that show how universal many of her issues are. The weekend helped her rethink and reshape the challenges she faces in her association, while also providing tools to help continued growth and leadership in her area. 

Holmgren said it’s participants like Kehoe and Prather that make the summitan event that make women in hockey want to return to year after year. 

“The purpose of the summit is to engage with and empower anyone who wants to continue to grow the girls and women’s side of hockey, but what makes this a success are the participants. They are passionate about continuing to move girls and women’s hockey forward and ultimately the reason we continue to hold the summit.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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