The puck glides across the smooth, frozen rink until swept away by a seeking blade. It is passed along from one blade to another, and another and finally……THWACK! The puck is hurled with driving force toward the goal. Closer and closer it sails across the frosty surface until victoriously flying right past the goalie’s reach — SCORE!
Skating on fresh ice, the Huskies Hockey Club settled into their new home at the International Ice Centre in Romeoville this fall. The move to this facility starts a new chapter in its 35-year history.
Until just a few months ago, the club offered only boys’ youth hockey programs, although girls were able to participate on the boys’ teams. Near-constant inquiries about the lacking representation of girls in hockey led to a decision to hold tryouts to initiate a girls’ youth program. Girls’ Head Coach Shawn Harmon was pleased at the turnout on September 1, 2006. Twenty girls now make up the team, with a few playing dual roster on boys’ teams.
The Huskies approached Erin Smith about taking on the position of Girls’ Hockey Director. “I jumped on board instantly.” Smith, toting over 25 years of experience in both women’s and men’s hockey, has not only been playing since her early childhood, but has held a number of coaching positions over the course of her career.
While girls’ hockey is new to the Huskies, girls and women have been playing hockey since as far back as the 1800s. However, it was not until the early 1900s that women’s hockey began to gain momentum. It was then that teams and leagues formed widely through Canada and in some parts of the United States.
World War II brought a decline in organized play and it was not until the 1960s that a revival in interest occurred. By the early 1990s the NCAA recognized women’s hockey as a sport. In 1998 women's hockey found its way to the Olympics in Japan. Although Canada and the United States are the major players in the world of women’s hockey, international interest has helped to keep this sport thriving in about 30 countries.
The International Ice Centre is an ideal place for the members of the Huskies Hockey Club to sharpen their skills and master their game. Since its founding, the club’s mission has been to present hockey to children by providing them with a progressive program that matures as they do. The Huskies’ program accommodates a range of skill levels and works to find a niche that is right for each child.
Besides its convenient location right off I-55, Smith described the new facilities at the International Ice Centre as “fantastic.” Three fresh NHL-size rinks have plenty of room for loyal spectators. Two rinks seat up to 250 fans each and the third allows for 500. Twenty locker rooms, a 1,500-square-foot goalie and shooting training surface, and dry land/off-ice training spaces round out the amenities.
Smith noted that since the move, things have improved for the girls. Ice times at a more reasonable hour, more play time and better locker rooms make participation less difficult for them and may even draw more to play due to the added ease.
With hopes to expand the program and encompass all age groups, “we need to get more girls playing,” Smith said. She would like to not only help spur on the popularity of girls hockey with the Huskies, but would like to play a part in promoting girls’ hockey on the whole. Coach Harmon sees girls’ hockey as a sport on the rise and he hopes to see a larger program in the coming seasons.
Today, girls’ youth hockey is finding its way and gaining popularity. The Huskies are on the right track shooting towards the future, pioneering a girls’ team. With continued support and interest the program shows great promise, all pucks are in place for a winning goal.