Think hockey is a just “boy’s sport?” Don’t try to tell that to Reegan Hanson, age 9, and her sister Bailey, age 11.
As members of Juneau’s new all-girls youth hockey squad, they’re liable to take you on the ice and teach you a lesson.
“It’s not a boys’ sport because now there’s a girls hockey team,” Bailey said.
“I like getting aggressive, it’s fun!” Reegan added.
Now in its first full season, the Juneau-Douglas Ice Association all-girls program has had trouble meeting demand. It’s grown from the eight girls who participated in last year’s state youth hockey championships (after playing on separate coed squads) to the 20 who now practice and play games together prior to the state tournament.
Eighteen girls age 9 to 13 showed up for their first game of the year in December, a morning tilt against a 10U boys squad.
“This is the first year there’s been enough girls interested in forming an all-girls team. … We’ve been pretty overwhelmed by the amount of interest from the girls already playing coed to the girls who have never skated before,” coach Jill Weitz said after the game.
“I think it’s encouraging because some girls feel more comfortable and more excited playing on an all-girls team. It makes for a really supportive and exciting environment.”
About 30 percent of JDIA’s coed youth teams are made up of girls, according to board member Susan Stoupher. This is slightly higher than statewide numbers of 22 percent, according to USA Hockey.
That ratio is high compared to other states, with the number of female USA Hockey members in Alaska (1,935 players of all ages) rivaling those of California (2,287) and Colorado (2,275).
Every JDIA youth team invites both girls and boys to join, but the girls have enjoyed having their own space, especially as they get older.
“As girls go into high school, they might stop growing maybe at 100, 120 pounds and they’re playing against people who are 200 pounds. So as parents of a girl, we really want her to have a place to go with her love for hockey,” Stoupher said.
When they get into high school, the girls can continue playing on the JDIA team while joining the Juneau-Douglas High School team, which currently rosters four girls players.
Reegan and Bailey, like many players both male and female, learned to skate at JDIA’s Intro to Hockey program, which runs Saturdays 10:30-11:30 a.m. from early October until February. There, youth players can gain the basic skills they need to join JDIA’s age-specific teams.
“We moved up here three years ago and did the intro to hockey program,” Reegan and Bailey’s mother Tanya said. “They’ve been in love with it ever since.”