Aside from a telltale ponytail peeking out from the helmets, you’d never know these pint-size hockey players have names like Allison, Annika and Ashley.
They hit the ice through the Susquehanna Girls Ice Hockey Under-10 Program. The program pulls skaters ages 6 to 11 mainly from Howard County, Baltimore and York, Pa., but also draws girls from Anne Arundel County and as far away as the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
In contrast to the rock-‘em, sock-‘em world of men’s hockey, women’s hockey relies more on speed and skill, not size and force (although the girls do still check one another.) All you need is basic skating skills and an ability to listen to coaching. Even if your daughter is a member of a coed team, she can still play games with the Rapids as a part-timer.
Six-year-old Annika Hansen is one of the younger players on the ice, but she’s been skating since she was four, the rising first-grader says. She got into ice hockey because her father and older brother play. Annika splits her ice time between the Rapids team and one closer to her York, Pa., home. Her mom, Susan, says Annika spends about five to six hours a week on the ice and up to another four hours of travel time.
The team divides practice and ice time among four rinks —York, Baltimore’s Mount Pleasant Ice Arena, Ice World in Harford County, and the Columbia Ice Rink in Columbia, Md. Starting next month, the team will practice once a week, with practices alternating between Thursday nights and Saturdays. Practices alternate at different rinks to even out the travel time for everyone.
Susan Hansen says she’s not worried about the possibility of injury, at least not at this age anyway. “They’re so padded that it doesn’t really hurt when they fall. I’ll worry a little more when she’s older,” she says.
Last year Annika was the only girl on her team, but that didn’t stop her from being the high scorer and scoring a few hat tricks (hat tricks are when a player scores three goals in a game, and is named such because spectators traditionally throw their hats onto the ice).
Beginning around Nov. 1, the Under-10 Rapids will play a close-to-home schedule of games against co-ed Squirts and Mites youth teams from Baltimore, Columbia, Md., and York, Pa. The team may travel to Pennsylvania and New Jersey for an occasional game against another under-10 girls’ team, but for the most part, the team will play games on the home ice of the Rapids’ parent clubs — the Baltimore Stars, the York Devils and the Howard Huskies.
There are plans for the team to attend three under-10 tournaments — its own end-of-season Ponytail Tournament on March 13-15, 2009, the Brampton Canadettes tournament in Ontario in April 2009, and a third tournament during the season possibly the under-10 Polar Bear Christmas tournament.
For more information about the Susquehanna Girls Ice Hockey Program call 410-323-8243, 717-848-1084 ext. 5 or visit susquehannarapids.org.
How Can My Child Get Started in Ice Hockey?
- Enroll in a learn-to-skate class at a local rink.
- Next, the skater should take a Hockey Basics class.
- Practice skating frequently at public skating sessions.
- Play It Again Sports offers discounts for mentioning the Baltimore Youth Hockey when purchasing equipment.
- Girls can participate on coed teams; girls’ teams are not the only avenue. Look into coed hockey teams: Atoms (ages 5-6), Mites (ages 7-8) and Squirts (ages 9-10) are groups with a local club. It may be possible for your daughter to get all the hockey experience she needs in her first season with a local club’s coed Atoms, Mites or Squirts team.
Rose Talbot is a freelancer writer and mom to two children, Ryan, 8, and Amelia, 5. They live in Dunkirk.