Her victory in the Midwest coincided with Arizona State’s ACHA men’s championship back home in Phoenix, and the two championships made her think – what if girl’s hockey in Arizona had that kind of goal to work toward?
“After winning a national championship, and then coming home and seeing Arizona kids win a national championship for their home state school, it had me thinking about why girls couldn’t have that same opportunity,” Ellis said.
|Lindsey Ellis |
Ellis played on the first incarnation of the AZ Lady Coyotes before heading to college to play. At the time Ellis was playing girl’s hockey, the sport was growing – but the highest level of play, college hockey, was still something that required leaving home.
The idea of playing in Arizona was something to laugh about and dream of, nothing more.
“The old Lady Coyotes had a long-standing joke about how nice it would be if we weren’t scattered all over the country at our respective colleges, and could be in Arizona for collegiate hockey,” Ellis said.
Ellis wanted to see that happen, so after taking home a national championship of her own, she turned her focus to the possibility of bringing women’s college hockey to the desert. With just three semesters of school left, she added a coaching major to her sports management major and started to plan out a women’s program for ASU.
Two years later, she’s made it happen.
This fall, Ellis will become the first head coach of the Arizona State University women’s ACHA ice hockey club.
Nearly single-handedly, she’s built the program from the ground up, working with Bauer to make sure the women will have track suits and uniforms, bringing on assistant coaches to ensure the team will be successful, recruiting players, and scheduling countless meetings with ASU, Oceanside Ice Arena, and the Behind the Mask hockey shops to get the program ready for its inaugural season.
Now all she needs are players.
A native of the Phoenix area, Ellis started playing after her brother got involved in hockey as a child. Like many Phoenix-area players, she got her start playing roller hockey, eventually playing on boy’s teams and spending her last few seasons before college playing girl’s hockey at long last.
Like many youth hockey players, she didn’t want to stop playing after high school, so she joined the newly-created women’s program at Miami-Ohio in 2011.
At the time, it seemed like there wasn’t even the possibility of a women’s college program in the desert.
She’s doing her best to make sure the girls who play after her don’t have to pick between playing near home and following their dreams – and she’s giving them a dream to follow in the first place.
“The majority of female hockey players in Arizona (and most of the West Coast, for that matter) don’t know what college hockey is like, and all the opportunities that are out there for girls,” Ellis said.
She got her first taste of those opportunities when she visited Goggin Ice Center for her college visit as a high school senior, and was hooked by the atmosphere that college hockey provides. Having a women’s team in Arizona, she’s sure, will give girl’s hockey in Arizona an opportunity to see that kind of environment in their home state.
It will give younger girls something tangible to work toward.
“The female hockey players at ASU will now be the heroes of the girls playing youth hockey here, and the ones who they can look up to,” Ellis said. “This team can grow the game more in Arizona, create more girl’s youth programs, keep female players from moving away to pursue higher-caliber programs, and (hopefully) be a catalyst for other collegiate women’s hockey programs to start on the West Coast.”
That exodus of players has been an issue for girls’ hockey in Arizona in recent years. The best tier of female players head to prep schools in the Northeast if they can, where scouts for the collegiate programs on the East Coast have easier access to them.
Having a program in Arizona will hopefully help keep some of those girls from leaving.
It’s hard to tell where, exactly, women’s hockey will be 20 years down the road. It’s hard to even tell where it will be five years from now; the state has seen promising growth at the youth level, but the real impact likely won’t be seen until the ASU program has wrapped up its first season.
The girls who are participating, though, will be making history – and it should show.
|Lindsey Ellis |
“These girls,” suggests Ellis, “will be the start of collegiate women’s hockey on the West Coast. Not many girls will be able to say they were there for the start of collegiate women’s hockey in the desert. They are the ones who will set the tone of where this program will be five, 10, and 20 years down the road.”
That tone will help set the tone for the sport at all levels.
The first win ASU will record? Ellis can’t wait to see that. She can’t wait for the first time her skaters step on the ice at Oceanside Arena as a part of the program; she can’t wait for their first game on Oct. 7 in Colorado, when she’ll get to see the excitement and nerves of a pioneering class at their first-ever collegiate puck drop. She can’t wait for one of her skaters to score the first goal by a women’s ice hockey player for Arizona State. She can’t wait for this to serve as a catalyst for women’s hockey across the West Coast.
“College hockey was a rollercoaster for me, as it is for every student-athlete across the country,” said Ellis.
All the benefits it gave her, though, are easy to spot. It provided her with almost 60 different teammates in a four-year span, each of whom taught her a little bit more about herself. It helped her realize that she wanted to go into Sport Management, where she could help other student-athletes reach their goals one day.
It also helped her decide to start a program in the desert, one that had never been seen in the desert before – and with that, it helped her shape the future of hockey in Arizona for years to come.