News Sports Utica Hosts Women's World Hockey Championship: Boosting Local Girls' Teams
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International Ice Hockey Federation

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Utica Hosts Women's World Hockey Championship: Boosting Local Girls' Teams

By Amy Neff Roth

Utica Observer Dispatch

The Journey of Annika Zalewski

Annika Zalewski, a 28-year-old from New Hartford, experienced a unique trajectory in her ice hockey career. While playing for Colgate University in Hamilton, she finally had the opportunity to participate in women's hockey close to home. However, during her high school years, she found herself as the lone girl on boys' teams in the local area. Her ponytail peeking out from under her helmet served as a visible reminder of her difference.

Girls' Hockey on the Rise

Times are changing. Over the past 15 seasons, girls' ice hockey participation has surged by 65% nationally, according to USA Hockey. Locally, young girls are increasingly joining coed programs. The Utica Jr. Comets and Rome Youth Hockey Association now field girls' teams starting at age 12 and under. Clinton High School has hosted a girls' ice hockey team for eight years, drawing athletes from various districts.

The Impact of the World Championship

The International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship, held in Utica this week and next, promises to be a game-changer. With the best players from around the world competing in one place, the event provides a unique opportunity for growth. Annika Zalewski emphasizes the significance: "This is something really special. People may not fully appreciate it until they witness the quality of play and the skill of these athletes."

Aspiring to Professional Hockey

For young girls like Shea and Eissen, daughters of Eric Gooldy (a coach with the Junior Comets), the dream of professional hockey is more attainable than ever. Eric shares that 180 women are currently being paid at least $80,000 to play hockey. The Women's World Championship inspires the next generation, fueling their passion for the game.

Published on April 3, 2024

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