The Colorado Select Girls Hockey Association reached a milestone last year when it became the only independent all-girls association to receive USA Hockey Model Association designation.
Now Kendall Hanley, first-year director of hockey for the Select, wants more.
Hanley, who took her position June 1, seeks to grow the association’s membership sufficiently to create teams that can compete at every skill level within each age division.
“We have a number of Tier I and Tier II teams, but my goal coming in is really getting back to making sure that we’re offering all options from recreational all the way through Tier I, including on the women’s level,” said Hanley, who in her previous position grew the Allen Community Ice Rink programs in Texas to more than 300 participants.
“We’re trying to build relationships with women in the community. We have a ton of alumni coming back to the area after playing collegiately to pursue coaching careers and who continue to play at the adult recreational level. Being an all-in-one girls’ and women’s association would be the long-term goal,” she said. “We have 8s, 10s, 12s, 14s, all the way up through 19s. My goal is to continue growing so that we have tier and recreational options on each of those levels, and we’re building from the beginners up.”
As part of her effort, Hanley promotes Try Hockey recruiting initiatives, but she also emphasizes that retention is equally important. The combination of teaching the game and providing players age-appropriate development helps ensure that the Select program has a strong reputation and that the players and families within the program are happy with the experience.
Among those families are the Iginlas and the Turgeons. Jarome Iginla, a forward who joined the Colorado Avalanche this season, and Pierre Turgeon, a 19-year NHL veteran, both have daughters with connections to the program. Jade Iginla plays on the Select 10U team. Turgeon, who retired from the NHL in 2007, served as coach for the Select 16U Tier I team last season. His daughter, Valerie Turgeon, played with the Select before moving on this season to Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota.
The Select program was one of only 11 USA Hockey Model Associations in the country to hold that title when recognized last year. Six more have achieved that level since.
The designation of USA Hockey Model Association acknowledges that the association is committed to fully implementing programming dedicated to age-appropriate age-specific skill development, in accordance with USA Hockey’s American Development Model, throughout the mite (8-and-under), squirt (10-and-under) and peewee (12-and-under) levels.
Hanley grew up in North Carolina and did not play ice hockey until she was 13, but still went on to play in college at Elmira College and Oswego State University before moving into a career in the sport.
When created in the 2000-01, the Select program was originally designed to be a single elite team. But what began as a U15 Tier I team in the first year quickly grew into five teams and three national qualifiers in Year 2. The program added a sixth team in 2002-03 and, for the first time, had a team for players new to the sport. Through the years, numerous Select alumna have gone on to represent the United States as members of the Women’s Olympic Team or the U.S. Women’s Under-18 and Under-22 Select teams.
The Select program was the first — and remains the only — independent all-girls’ hockey association in Colorado. While trying to make sure the program continues evolving, Hanley also wants to work with girls and girls’ teams in other Colorado hockey associations to spur statewide growth.
A few of the Select girls’ rec teams play in house leagues with boys' teams from around the Denver metro area while arranging games against girls’ teams from other associations where possible.
“We try to have combined practice sessions and non-league games against other girls when we can,” Hanley said. “It benefits both teams, playing other girls and growing awareness of the sport and that girls' hockey can be just as competitive as boys' hockey.
“That’s kind of the stigma — ‘It’s not hockey, it’s girls’ hockey’ — to me, they’re the same thing, minus checking when you get to the older age level; both are just as physical and competitive.”
Hanley envisions a day when those girls-versus-girls games on more levels could dominate the schedules rather than be friendly exhibitions added to a league schedule.
“My long-term goal would be to work with other associations who already have a few girls in their programs and say, ‘Hey, why not have a girls’ team,’” Hanley said. “Hopefully over time, by building those relationships, we can have a Denver metro girls’ league that melds into the existing MSGHL [Mountain States Girls Hockey League], which a number of our teams, past and current, have competed in.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.