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AmeriHealth Pavilion hosts World Girls Ice Hockey Weekend

by Gordy Stillman / New Jersey Devils
Blocking a shot, a young goaltender participates in a girls hockey clinic at Prudential Center on October 11th, part of the IIHF's World Girls Ice Hockey Weekend. At AmeriHealth Pavilion, skaters moved through seven activities including two scrimmages throughout the day. Photo by Courtney Gfroerer

The New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center partnered with USA Hockey and the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Hockey Association to host “World Girls Ice Hockey Weekend” at AmeriHealth Pavilion on October 11th. Approximately 150 girls participated in the day’s festivities, including skaters from Philadelphia, Harlem and Newark, along with teams from MAWHA.

The events at AmeriHealth Pavilion represented one event in celebration of a weekend-long global initiative spearheaded by the International Ice Hockey Federation, the international governing body of the sport, which designated October 10 and 11 as a worldwide opportunity to introduce girls to hockey.

Over a 24-hour period within the weekend, a girls hockey game was underway somewhere around the world. Beginning with a game in Dunedin, New Zealand on October 10 and closing with a game in Montreal, Canada on October 11, there was continuous hockey played. While the AmeriHealth festivities were not part of the 24-hour marathon, the United States did host one of the 29 games played, which took place in Warwick, RI., on Sunday.

At AmeriHealth Pavilion, Hockey Director and Associate Coach in Chief for the Atlantic District of USA Hockey, Andy Gojdycz described the clinic as an event to introduce girls to the game, “to show them the higher levels of hockey that girls play,” and demonstrate where skaters could go with the sport.

On each end of the ice, cross-ice scrimmages played out, while in the middle of the ice, dividers created four stations where skaters worked on stickhandling, passing and agility using ringettes. The participants even played a soccer-like game on the ice emphasizing footwork. Off the ice, a seventh drill offered practice with ball-handling, stickhandling and other fine motor skills, using wooden golf-ball sized balls that translate directly to puck and stickhandling on the ice. Skaters spent 20 minutes in each section, with 20 minute off-ice intervals between sections for an hour of on-ice time.

As a special treat for the Devils’ clinic, Josephine Pucci, a member of the 2014 silver medal United States Olympic team was on hand to meet skaters, take photos and participate in the activities of the day. “It’s a great opportunity to try and get more girls aware of ice hockey and get more girls excited about ice hockey,” Pucci said. The Pearl River, NY native even brought her silver medal, to the amazement of the skaters who saw it. “To have an Olympian in the same building with these girls, who herself played at the highest levels…it just completes the event” Gojdycz said

The day’s festivities at AmeriHealth Pavilion represent the New Jersey Devils’ effort to strengthen its bond with USA Hockey and MAWHA, promoting youth hockey for both boys and girls. AmeriHealth Pavilion currently hosts a cross-ice youth hockey program for skaters ages 10 and under, one-day clinics on holidays and will begin a six-week learn-to-play program for children on Friday, October 16th.

Girls’ hockey is a fast-growing sport in the United States, with a new professional league, the NWHL, recently formed with four teams in the eastern United States. “Girls hockey will continue to grow, and will continue to flourish,” Gojdycz said, looking at the increasing number of NCAA Division I scholarship opportunities and the new professional league.

The clinic at AmeriHealth Pavilion was part of a global initiative to promote girls hockey. Skaters from Philadelphia, Harlem and Newark joined with local teams to have fun and gain exposure to higher levels of the sport. Photo by Courtney Gfroerer
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