With the NHL well into the playoffs, there seems to have been nothing but discussion on game updates, player interviews and whether or not the Blackhawks will come out on top again (as a Chicagoan, you can imagine the sudden increase in fans I’ve noticed this time around). While I’m as much a Patrick Kane fan as the next girl, it wouldn’t hurt to turn our eye back to the female superstars who shouldn’t be forgotten. If anything, now is the time to remember women’s leagues which don’t receive nearly as much attention as men’s, so our loyalty and support of the women making a career out of ice hockey is a constant necessity. Below, you’ll find three women’s players who shouldn’t be pushed out of the rink:
Julie Chu has played in four straight Olympics, and emerged with three silvers and one bronze. In Sochi, Team USA just missed gold once again, losing to their long-time rivals from the north, Canada. Since Chu has no major hockey league to join here in the U.S. during the regular season, she plays for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League as forward and defense for the Montreal Stars. The CWHL only has five teams, however, and most of the players work secondary jobs. Chu, despite this, has remained positive, saying, “The Calgary Flames have joined to support the league, [as have] the Toronto Maple Leafs. We really want to continue to support that, when again, there’s a great product out there.”
Julie is well aware of the struggles that come with being a professional female ice hockey player. The money isn’t fast-flowing and the jobs are heavily limited, which is why she has chosen to focus her efforts on expanding the women’s leagues where they exist, especially North America.
Just last month, Shannon Szabados made history by becoming the goalie for the Columbus Cottonmouths. Why is this history? Because Shannon is the first and only female player in the Southern Professional Hockey League, as of this moment. The Columbus Cottonmouths are more than supportive, and Shannon entered the rink leading the team at her first game last month – a gesture that was immediately followed by rousing cheers and huge applause. Shannon is also a two-time Olympic gold medalist who has played for Team Canada who, as mentioned before, took home gold in Sochi.
While, ideally, most female players would prefer their own league (due to size and body weight discrepancies -after all, it isn’t a prerequisite to be large for men or women to play hockey) there’s no denying that Shannon’s actions have drawn attention to the skill level of many female players. Shannon’s willing, and more than able, to play and get paid on a professional level, a statement that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
In the world of female ice hockey, Hayley Wickenheiser is well known. She was the first woman to play professional hockey in a position other than goalie, and remains a member of the Canadian national ice hockey team. She’s been to the Olympics five times, securing four golds and a silver, while simultaneously being named tournament MVP twice. She helped Canada secure that gold in Sochi (with a broken foot!) and just this last February, she was elected to the International Olympic Committee’s athlete commission. For these reasons and more, Wickenheiser is generally considered the greatest female ice hockey player in the world.
Wickenheiser was named to Canada’s National Women’s Team at age 15, a role which she has kept for 20 years. In addition to her official positions and unofficial status as all-time best, Wickenheiser is one of two women who were first to be featured as a playable character in EA Sports’ NHL 13.
Regardless of your team preferences, women’s hockey overall should be continually supported, and athletes such as these three —and many, many, more— given the respect and praise they are due. Similarly to men’s leagues, women’s hockey games can be viewed through the sports channels available through most major cable providers and satellite services like Dish or DirecTV (see this website for hockey/sports channel information). For more hockey players you should be admiring, you can also check out this Blogspot, which has star female athletes from every nation.