This weekend, 30 countries will play host to more than 300 events for women and girls as part of the International Ice Hockey Federation's "World Girls' Hockey Weekend."
The goal is to bring exposure to girls' and women's hockey programs, hopefully leading to a rise in participation. Therefore, girls are getting the chance to watch games free and even take free lessons with their local programs. The Tampa Bay Lightning are also getting involved on the NHL level, inviting Team USA's Anne Schleper to host panel discussions and street hockey events for girls, as well as participate in their morning skate Monday prior to their game against the Canadiens.
With participation in girls' and women's hockey in the United States alone having climbed by nearly 25 percent in the past decade, it's clear the interest in the game is there, and it's just as important to spread that interest across continents. The USA, Canada and Finland are holding the bulk of events, but there will also be participation in Japan, Singapore, Argentina and Bulgaria, among other countries. To see if your area is hosting an event, check out the IIHF's Girls' Hockey Weekend page. For a couple of examples of what hockey means to young women who participate, check out Metro News's stories here and here.
To finish, I'll leave you with an infographic that highlights just how important sports like hockey can be for young women and girls:
- The Gophers are opening up conference play with a matchup against cross-state rivals UMD. Minnesota managed to stay atop the polls last week with wins against Penn State and Boston University and has won 11 straight against the Bulldogs. UMD is 1-2-1 overall and winless in the WCHA. They're facing a sort of transitional period after losing much of last season's roster, but have welcomed back top scorer Jenna McParland and senior defenseman Brigette Lacquette (the latter of whom was centralized with the Canadian national team for much of last season). UMD is offering free tickets to all girls' hockey players as part of Girls' Hockey Weekend. Puck drop is at 6:07 p.m. Central.
- SCSU is still looking for its first win after dropping both its games against Penn State and Boston U last weekend. The Huskies drop the puck in another non-conference weekend, this time against Lindenwood, Friday and Saturday at 3:07 p.m. Central.
- Bemidji State is undefeated and off to its best start in school history after defeating Vermont last weekend, climbing to 4-0 overall. That earned the Beavers their first votes in the USCHO.com Division I Women's poll since February 2012. The Beavers look to keep the streak going against Ohio State next weekend.
- Hockey in Society is putting together a great series for this weekend focused on the opportunities and roadblocks that affect women's and girls' hockey. Check it out and stay tuned for their roundtable discussion involving bloggers, academics and players on the state of the sport.
- Boston University is set for an exhibition game against the Boston Blades Saturday, a game head coach Brian Durocher says should help the Terriers iron out some of the kinks in their play, particularly when it comes to special teams. Not area-specific, but it'll be interesting to follow.
- Watch This Hockey has done a spectacular job gathering links and information on the CWHL in this post, which I consider a great primer for any new (or even existing) fan of women's hockey.
- Meanwhile, Eric Burton has an illuminating read over at THW. He interviewed North Dakota women's head coach Brian Idalski concerning more television exposure for women's college hockey, and Idalski had some great insight.