Hockey is mostly known as a sport for men only, but with the increasing interest of women, this is no longer the case. There is a long list of male hockey superstars and great teams but little attention has been brought to the growing eminence of female hockey. Since all the focus in the media right now is on the NHL and the playoffs, now is the perfect time to take a look at women’s hockey.
Today the number of female hockey players and teams is increasing – below, you’ll find four female hockey players who are tearing up the ice:
Playing in four straight Olympics and emerging with three silver medals and one bronze, Chu has had a very successful hockey career. As a member of Team USA, her goal of winning a gold medal in Sochi this year came up short in a loss to longtime rival Canada. Chu is also a member of the Montreal Stars where she continues her hockey play in Canada’s women’s league when she is not participating in the Olympics.
Meanwhile Chu is seeking development of a women’s league in North America. The existence of a women’s league will give American women the opportunity to play closer to home instead of seeking opportunities to play internationally.
With few opportunities for high level female players available, Olympic goaltender Shannon Szabados decided to try her hand at the men’s game. Szabados, a two time Olympic gold medalist with Canada as they eliminated the USA in Sochi, became one of the first women to ever play in a men’s professional sports league when she joined the Columbus Cottonmouths in the Southern Professional Hockey League. Szabados’ participation began last month in a lost to the Knoxville Ice Bears.
Although hockey is a dangerous sport, especially in the NHL, Szabados is an example of why women have the ability to play in a men’s league. Until women’s leagues become more developed, we may see more female players follow Szabados to the men’s leagues.
At the early age of 15, Hayley was selected to join the Canadian Women’s National Team, and has since led the team to 6 gold medals and 1 silver medal. Recently in Sochi, it was noted that Haley was key to her team winning the gold medal, despite playing with a broken foot. Making history similar to her female hockey companions, she was the first women to play for a men’s team in a position other than goalie. She made history joining the Kirkkonummen Salamat, a team in Finland’s second division, and became the first woman to score a point in a men’s game in 2003.
Other than of hockey, Hayley has had other professions. Also great at softball, she participated in the sport at 2000 Summer Olympics, and was a softball analyst for CBS in their coverage of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
With so many great female players, there are some that are considered true legends to the game of hockey, and Erika Holst is definitely considered one of them. As the captain of the Swedish national team, she was always in attack mode on the offensive end. Her offensive prowess led her team to an Olympic bronze medal by scoring five goals in five games in 2002. To extend her great track record, she also led her team to the silver medal in the 2006 Olympics. The Swedish player also had a very impressive college record that consisted of consecutive NCAA championships from 2001-2003.
To maintain her greatness on the ice, Holst has a rigorous weekly training schedule that consists of 4 nights of training with the team, 2 games, and training on her own before lunch each day.
Holst also passes on her hockey experience to younger players as a guest at many summer hockey camps in Sweden. She also works for the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation, where she’s responsible for the development of women’s hockey.
As support for women’s hockey continues to increase and more leagues develop, hockey will finally lost its status as a sport for men only. These are just four of the many great female hockey players that deserve recognition at the level that men receive. These days it’s easier than ever to find and support women’s hockey, since women’s NCAA games can now be viewed through the sports channels, and many international games are available online and as Direct Television Specials. As long as women continue to be to interested in playing, women’s hockey will continue to flourish!
If you ask kids what the FUNNEST sport is, you will get a lot of different answers – from soccer, to gymnastics, softball and everything else in between. Not a lot of them will raise their hand and say swimming. But if you ask the question a different way, like “what is the best part about summer?” I bet almost all of them will say SWIMMING and going to the pool.
First, from the press release:
Ten industry partners, including USA Swimming, are collaborating on a summer-long campaign called SwimToday, led by five-time Olympian and 12-time medalist, Dara Torres. Launching today, the lighthearted campaign proclaims swimming as “the funnest sport there is” and showcases its many benefits in an effort to bring more kids who know how to swim into the sport of swimming.
According to the 2014 State of the Competitive & Fitness Swimming Industry Report by Sports Marketing Surveys, the exclusive research provider to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, nearly 80 percent of parents overlook swimming when choosing organized sports activities for their children after they learn to swim. Most notably, parents whose children had never tried swimming perceived it to be less fun than other sports. However, parents of swimmers rated the sport at the top in fun, teamwork, confidence-building and health and fitness once they gave it a try.
The campaign is endorsed and supported by 10 leading swimming industry partners, including membership organizations, coaches associations, swimsuit and equipment manufacturers, swimming media, and technology partners. The “Funnest Sport” campaign will also address common misconceptions about the sport, encouraging more parents to consider swimming as a youth sport option for their children.
Torres, a lifelong swimmer, entered her first international swimming competition at age 14 and in 2008 became the oldest swimmer to compete in an Olympic Games. Now a “swim mom” herself, she cheers her daughter on at swim practice and understands the challenges parents face as they make decisions about how their children will spend their time.
“I started swimming as a kid and it gave me skills I’ve used throughout my life,” said Torres. “Now I have an 8-year-old daughter who is on a swim team and loves it. I see her benefitting from the same things I did, and I want other moms to know how much fun it can be and what a lifelong gift it is for our kids.”
As part of this campaign, I was given the opportunity to talk with Dara Torres on the phone last week about swimming and why it is the FUNNEST sport. But, I already knew why! While Dara’s daughter is just now starting to swim competitively, all three of my kids have done so in some capacity – summer league, year round competitive team and high school swim – over the last seven years. I know it’s fun – not just for the kids either – it is a very family friendly sport.
Here are a few of the reasons my own kids love swimming on a team (and my 5 Reasons to Join a Summer Swim Team):
- Like the image at the top of this post shows – there are no bench warmers! Every child can participate – from swimming in individual events to the incredibly exciting relays. My youngest daughter would be totally content just swimming relays -she LOVES being part of a team and working together as a team.
- It’s social! They love sitting with their friends between races at meets, writing silly sayings on their arms, and cheering on their friends. Did I mention how much fun the relays are?
- It’s great cross training. Swimming makes you stronger and builds your endurance – and that makes every other sport they do easier. Plus swimming is low impact – which means fewer injuries.
- They can all be on the same team. Yep, that’s right! Especially in summer, all three kids go to practice and meets together. Boys and girls swim side by side and the big kids swim at the same time as the younger kids. It is like one big family.
In talking with Dara, we both agree that swimming teaches so much more than just swimming (that in itself is a life long skill). Of course, it is most important that your child is watersafe at a young age – and swim lessons are great way to start, but once they can swim, competitive swimming can teach so much more. Things like self confidence, team work, setting goals and time management are just a few of them.
Over the past seven years, I have watched the friendships made at the pool grow – not just with the kids either. As swim parents, you have to get involved, too. From timing to officiating, concessions and awards, it takes volunteers, but some of my closest friends are those I have met timing or helping to run swim meets. I asked Dara what job she usually does at her daughter’s meets and she responded, “timer.” Timing a meet is a blast – you get to see every race and be right in the middle of the action!
Summer swim season for us starts the Tuesday after Memorial Day and even though only one of my kids is swimming this summer (well, maybe two), we are so excited for another FUN summer of swim, friendships, team spirit, and staying fit!
For more information on getting started with a swim program in your area, visit SwimToday.org.
For those familiar with Amy Purdy and her story, her success on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars should come as no surprise. Purdy hasn’t just been overcoming obstacles since the double amputation of both her legs at age 19 – she’s been plowing right through them as if they never existed in the first place.
If you’re unfamiliar with her, she’s certainly going to be someone you want to know. After contracting what she thought was the flu at age 19, she found herself growing rapidly sicker, and within a day she was rushed to the hospital after developing septic shock. She soon went into a coma that would last for three weeks. Doctors finally learned that she had the bacterial infection neisseria meningitidis attacking her circulatory system, eventually causing multiple organ failures and resulting in the removal of her spleen and amputation of both her legs below the knee. Doctors at said that at the time, she had less than a 2% chance of survival. She later told ABC News, “I remember thinking, this is so surreal. This is so crazy. I thought, ‘This is what it feels like to die.”
Of course, she didn’t die, and in fact she was back on a snowboard (her sport of choice before falling ill) only seven months after her amputation. A year after the amputation she had returned to the snowboarding circuit, competing thanks to the support of the Challenged Athletes Foundation. Inspired by the support of the CAF, Amy decided to start her own organization for disabled athletes in 2005 called Adaptive Action Sports.
You would think that running a non-profit, working as a massage therapist, and a CAF spokesperson would be enough to keep anyone busy, but not Amy. She continued to snowboard competitively while pursuing other passions including acting and modeling. She even appeared in a music video for Madonna after the singer heard her inspiring story. To top it all off, Amy just brought home a bronze medal from the 2014 Sochi Paralympics.
Now Amy is tackling another project: dancing. Never one to back down from a challenge, she and her partner Derek Hough were rehearsing even while she was in Sochi, and the duo flew directly from Russia to L.A. the day before the first show. Anyone would have been exhausted, jet lagged, and wanting to simply crawl into bed, but not Amy – she dazzled on the dancefloor doing a cha-cha that brought judge Carrie Ann Inaba to tears and landed her an impressive score of 24/30.
She also pulled off another stellar performance during week two, after surviving a double elimination at the beginning of the show. While she was slightly concerned during rehearsals for her swing, she said, “It’s a pretty funny thought to think that my legs could potentially fly off.” Well, it’s a miracle they didn’t with all of the high intensity kicks, splits, flips, and jumps in her and Hough’s dance. Perhaps ironically, the only slip up in the dance was a missed arm motion. The performance ended with Amy doing the splits as the audience gave her a standing ovation. The judges were impressed as well, giving her a score of 24 out of 30 and putting her in the top five for the night.
Yet, amazingly, in week three Amy did even better with her contemporary dance which she told the L.A. Times was about “giving gratitude to my family and my dad for their support through my toughest time.” Clearly her inner passion came through and she landed a 9/10 score from each judge, giving her 27/30 her personal best so far. Those who haven’t seen Amy’s performances yet this season can catch them through many video-on-demand services, ABC Go, the ABC Player App or on demand through your DirecTV receiver or DVR.
For Amy’s fans, her success on the show comes as no surprise, she’s been defying expectations for quite a few years now. But for those of us who hadn’t heard of her before, who didn’t know her story, it’s a truly awesome story of perseverance and dedication. Amy can teach all of us, athletes or not, that only you set your own limitations, no one else.
Image Source: Zimbio.com and HollywoodGossip.com