Girls’ hockey is one of the fastest growing participation sports in New Jersey and around the country — up 65% in the past 15 years. The biggest issue going forward isn’t interest, but ice time. And clinics. More than anything, it’s access to opportunity.
Sunday morning at the Prudential Center, the three groups helped launch Jersey Girls Hockey Club, a recreational ice hockey league for girls ages 5 to 12 in New Jersey, providing a space for girls to continue playing hockey among their peers.
The recreational hockey league is open to girls who are graduates of the Devils’ Learn-to-Play program, providing a safe space for girls to continue working on their hockey skills while also providing a fun and inclusive team environment. The Jersey Girls Hockey Club will play at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House, the practice facility of the New Jersey Devils, every Saturday afternoon from March 23-May 18.
Sunday morning, there was an unofficial start, as more than 40 girls were welcomed to Prudential Center to participate in an on-ice jamboree with a skills component run by Amanda Pelke (U.S. Olympic gold medalist) and Shelly Picard (Devils female hockey ambassador, U.S. Olympic silver medalist and assistant coach of Long Island University’s women’s hockey team) and others.
Jillian Frechette, the chief marketing officer of the Devils and Prudential Center, said the impact of Jersey Girls Hockey Club could be huge.
“We are thrilled to announce the Jersey Girls Hockey Club and create an inclusive environment where young girls can practice hockey in a fun, yet developmental way,” she said. “This recreational league fills the void in the youth hockey space, allows them to play the game at a higher organized level and aligns with the Devils’ commitment to supporting girls and women in hockey.”
Funding for the Jersey Girls Hockey Club has been provided in part by the Devils Youth Foundation.
Kate Whitman Annis, the executive director of the Devils Youth Foundation, applauded the investment.
“The Jersey Girls Hockey Club is another impactful way for the Devils Youth Foundation to provide support and grow the game we love,” she said. “This project reflects the Devils Youth Foundation’s mission of ensuring access to sports and creating meaningful opportunities for our youth throughout New Jersey.”
The Jersey Girls Hockey Club is billed as a legacy to the 2024 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series, as the Devils are one of four local teams who will play at MetLife Stadium next weekend.
In reality, it is another step in growing the game in the state.
Fifteen teams compete at the varsity level in girls hockey in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. A number of other schools compete at the junior varsity level.
The interest clearly is there.
A reader poll by N.J. Advance Media to name the top upper-class player received more than 15,000 votes.
How to sign up
The Devils Youth Foundation enriches the lives of New Jersey’s youth by creating life-changing opportunities and inspiring youth in its communities through the power of sports and entertainment. For more information and to register, click here.
As was the case when the boys’ side of the sport exploded with teams in 1990s, more opportunity likely is all it will take for the girls to see huge growth.
The Jersey Girls Hockey Club is an attempt to help in that effort, said Kim Davis, the NHL’s vice president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs.
“This legacy project showcases the power of strategic philanthropy, focusing our efforts around the defined mission of investing in the future of women’s hockey and our growing female fanbase,” she said. “We know these Jersey girls will grow up to be the future players, supporters and leaders of our game.”