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“The Love for the Game Starts Young”

October 10, 2017

GCU Women’s Ice Hockey helps sport grow as part of World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend

By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff

It was a weekend to celebrate the sport, and also a weekend to help grow it.

Over the past weekend, the Grand Canyon University women’s ice hockey team took part in World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend, a global initiative put together by the International Ice Hockey Federation that allows girls an opportunity to try out the game of hockey. Local youth hockey players were able to skate with the Lopes, play games and learn valuable lessons both on and off the ice.

“I want the little ones to look up to the GCU girls,” women’s ice hockey assistant coach Kaylene Zak said. “Our goal is to ultimately expand the hockey community in Arizona.”

Women’s hockey has seen record growth throughout the United States and especially here in Arizona. However, numbers remain small. As of 2016, there are over 75,000 female participants in USA Hockey. In Arizona, there is just 580. Compare that to nearly 500,000 male participants across the country and over 7,000 in Arizona, and it shows that women’s hockey still has a ways to go.

But Zak is optimistic a weekend like this one can change the rhetoric.

“It’s only going to get better,” Zak said. “I’ve played hockey my whole life here, and it’s definitely getting bigger with ASU and now GCU, so it’s going to grow and keep growing.”

Freshman forward Tuesday Chavez echoed that sentiment while offering a perspective as to why the number of girls in hockey remains low.

“Not a lot of girls feel confident playing hockey,” Chavez said. “A lot of boys play hockey more than girls, so getting the chance to play with college students is really cool for them.”

Call it intimidation, but GCU is out to break that mindset.

As a youth hockey player in New Mexico, Chavez never had an opportunity to skate with college players. Now with a chance to help in a way she was never able to, Chavez and the team can show what the game is all about.

“I just want everyone to remember that hockey is fun,” Chavez said. “Just be confident in yourself. I’m out here having fun and teaching them new skills with a positive attitude.

“The love for the game starts young.”