Oval women’s league aims to have fun, solid competition
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It’s well-documented that women’s hockey is indeed growing in Utah and the newly-created Lady Grizzlies Adult Rookie League at the Utah Olympic Oval is a prime example of that growth.
With the goal to provide and fun and competitive environment, head instructor Jae Worthen said the league is ideal for adult women players who may have fallen in love with the game for the first time or always wanted to play hockey.
“My biggest goal with the women’s group is to one day have a legit 4-6 team league that would compete for a season championship in the winter and summer seasons,” said Worthen. “We would like to continue to offer the same standard of coaching help and practice for our new women players as we have in the past with our men’s rookie league. We have been lucky to have some amazing help and coaching from former women’s college hockey players like Julia Mulhern (Wesleyan University) and Brittany Salmon (Princeton University) and they have been vital to the league’s success and growth.”
The ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies and VP Jared Youngman are major supporters of the Lady Grizzlies league and head coach Tim Branham has run clinics and practices with both of the Oval’s adult rookie league programs. Grizzlies forward Cam Wojtala has also been a regular supporter and often leads the power skating drills each practice.
“We’re hoping to create a really positive environment where women can come to learn, get familiar with the game, and most importantly, have fun,” said Mulhern. “Hockey has been a really positive part of my life since I was kid. It’s given me place to grow and express myself and has been a source of joy for me for a long time. My goal is to share my passion with as many women as possible and give them the opportunity to enjoy the game as much as I have.”
“Julia has been an incredible find and one of the primary reasons that this league exists today,” added Worthen. “I can’t say enough good things about her help with organizing the league and hard work coaching on the ice. You can see her passion for the game every time she steps on the ice. She really wants to be there and always wants our players to succeed and grow as hockey players and people.”
Lady Grizzlies games are played on Tuesday nights at 8:30 p.m. and Friday nights at 7:30 p.m. Practice times are based on ice availability. Cost is $165 per session or a discount fee of $230 for both sessions. Session 1 runs from October to January and the second session is from January to April.
Worthen explained that putting together the women’s rookie league was the next logical step after seeing the success of the men’s rookie league the past couple seasons.
“Our women’s players are amazing and it’s been so much fun,” said Worthen. “The excitement and enthusiasm that they bring each ice time is contagious. We may be small right now with our humble beginnings of three teams, but we have the best group of players that want to get better each week.”
Mulhern added that seeing the Lady Grizzlies take off is a true testament to how far women’s hockey has come in the state.
“I think our league is a really big step forward for women’s hockey in Utah,” said Mulhern. “While women’s teams have existed in the past, this league is a way to get everyone together to create the critical mass needed for women’s hockey to really take off in Utah. Hopefully, involving and empowering adult women will create role models for girls who want to play and help grow the sport across all ages.
“Women’s hockey is a different game than men’s – it involves more finesse and team play because checking is not allowed. Creating an all-women’s league helps dissuade the stereotypes that hockey has to be really physical, instead emphasizing the skill and strategy of the game.”
— Matt Mackinder