They call Texas the “Lone Star State,” but if the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend gives any indication, lots of female stars could come out of the Dallas area in the future.
The NHL’s Dallas Stars sponsored three events at rinks in Farmers Branch and Richardson on Saturday and McKinney on Sunday. Each event was designed to give girls an opportunity to try out hockey for free. Skates were provided for all participants, along with equipment. First-timers were welcome, with no previous hockey or skating experience needed.
“We had 60 girls registered at each rink, and about 50 showed up in each case,” said Stars youth hockey development manager Kalie Hagood. “It was shockingly a little bit more successful than I would have imagined.”
Most of the participants were around eight years old, but many four- and five-year-olds showed up as well. Sessions ran for 45 minutes, and the girls went through five USA Hockey American Development Model stations. They worked on stickhandling and puck control, played around with tennis balls, and practised keeping their balance while skating.
A special guest coach at the McKinney event was Stars forward Patrick Eaves, currently in his 10th NHL season. The 31-year-old’s IIHF claim to fame is playing on the U.S. team that won the 2004 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland, which is also the site of this season’s World Juniors.
Eaves is the father of five-year-old Norah and three-year-old Della, and they joined him on the ice.
“It was a success having him there,” said Hagood. “He made a big impact.”
Meanwhile, Kristy Oonincx came out to provide a strong female role model. The former college hockey star with Minnesota and St. Cloud scored 130 points in 126 games between 2001/02 and 2005/06.
“She played a huge part,” said Hagood of the 32-year-old from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. “She did a 15-minute introduction, explaining her career in hockey, from the ups and downs to how to get involved in scholarship opportunities. And she helped out on the ice as well.”
According to Hagood, it was a rewarding feeling to see these events come off after months of planning: “This is the first time we’ve ever tried something like this. We’re definitely going to be doing more events in the near future. We wanted to give it a whirl and find out what were the best practices. We’ll probably do three different rinks again and run it the same way.”
If logistics permit and the demand is there, the Stars could even end up sponsoring a girls’ league. The team’s lone Stanley Cup came in 1999 over the Buffalo Sabres, but spurring the growth of women’s hockey in Texas is a triumph in its own right.