Youth hockey program offers connection with Lopes for aspiring female players
By: Garrett Osterode/GCU Staff
Most male and female athletes have idols they can look up to, whether that be LeBron James, Serena Williams, Mike Trout, or Candace Parker. These names and others represent positive influences found on a daily basis by simply flipping on ESPN or browsing social media.
For women’s ice hockey, though, those role models are harder to come by. The Grand Canyon University Women’s Ice Hockey team is trying to change that. Early into her tenure, Lopes’ Head Coach Natalie Rossi saw GCU’s opportunity to be a poster for an upcoming generation for young girls who wanted to play ice hockey.
That is how the Blue Line Buddies Program was born.
Blue Line Buddies is a youth program that allows young, female ice hockey players to come out, spend time with the GCU squad, and even warm up and be introduced with the players before the games.
“[Blue Line Buddies] is all about visibility for women in sports,” said Rossi. We are able to be role models for the young girls in the valley. The GCU players love it, but more importantly, the young girls love it.”
What started as a simple idea to show the meaning of giving back and getting involved in the community has turned into a transformative experience for a lot of the Lopes’ players.
“The program has empowered our players as well,” said Rossi. “It has encouraged the value of giving back. When they go home, they understand the impact they can have in their hometowns.”
Blue Line Buddies has been such a hit that other women’s ice hockey programs – specifically the University of Utah – have followed in GCU’s footsteps,.
“It has been awesome to see another non-traditional hockey state run with the program,” said Rossi. “(Utes’ Head Coach) Morgan [Marietti] and I have a strong relationship, and I am proud to see her take this step for their program.”
While the Lopes have been recognized for their excellent charitable work, their ongoing mission is to make women’s ice hockey, and women’s sports in general, more visible.
“Even if we inspire one person to play hockey and empower one woman, all of our hard work is enough,” said Rossi. “We are in a unique position. It is what we do with that position that matters.”
Interested in joining GCU Women’s Ice Hockey? Contact Lopes’ Head Coach Natalie Rossi today!