When you talk to certain people throughout New York City, the words popular and hockey used in the same sentence might warrant a few confused looks. However, the sport is gaining popularity in and around the five boroughs and that can all be traced to female hockey players. In Brooklyn, one particular organization is at the forefront.
In 2015, the National Women’s Hockey League was founded with one of its four franchises from the New York Area. The team, called the New York Riveters, played its games at Aviator Sports and Event Center in Brooklyn, New York. But other than the Riv’s, there are ladies teams in the area that are doing their part as well.
The Brooklyn Blades Ice Hockey Club is a New York City based women’s hockey team that have been running community hockey programs in the area since 1992. They are the longest running women’s team in the New York area, who got their start in Prospect Park.
“We have women from the ages ranging from 20 to 69,” said Linda Hayes in a phone interview. Hayes is the captain of the Blades and has been with the club for over 20 years. “We tend to get people who already play. We used to run a clinic but it’s no longer around.”
Hayes said that the team is overwhelmingly white, but every year they try to have at least one non-white member. Last year, they had a goalie who was Chinese-American, who was originally a softball player. She is also well informed of how difficult it is to get acclimated with the game. “I think it’s tough for someone who’s just starting out, not many rinks teach you how to play hockey.”
“I think people don’t understand that you just need a stick and a puck,” Hayes referenced to when people say that you can’t get into hockey. “Street hockey has gotten so popular in the East Village,” where Hayes resides.
When talking about young girls wanting to try the game, she said it depends on them seeing the players as role models who get paid to play the sport. “The more visible, the more you’ll see young girls wanting to play.”
The last thing Hayes spoke of was her belief that the game is growing in the area from playing on a team, but that for the game to really skyrocket, the media coverage of hockey has to increase, as well as both NHL teams doing well. “I’m always complaining about the hockey coverage. I think that’s the advertising.”