Opinions are divided on girls division in PIHL
PIHL commissioner Ed Sam recently sent out a survey to each of the interscholastic hockey league's member associations. The purpose of the survey was simple: to determine how many PIHL clubs had at least one female player in their ranks.
Sam was pleasantly surprised by the results.
"Of the 52 associations that responded, 48 have girls playing PIHL hockey," he said, adding that approximately 25-30 teams didn't return the survey and the actual number could be higher.
The results have given Sam reason to believe recent efforts to create a girls division within the PIHL are merited. While he made it clear that no final decision has been made about establishing such a division, he remained upbeat about its prospects.
"At some point in time, yeah (the league will be a reality). Not now of course, but possibly next year," he said.
Ford City coach Doug Anthony is a strong proponent of such a proposal.
"I think right now, (ice hockey is) the fastest-growing sport among girls. I don't think it'd be a problem (creating a division)," Anthony said.
Anthony believes establishing a female-only division in the PIHL would do wonders.
"There'd be more opportunity for (the girls) to move on and play hockey at the collegiate level. You'd see more scouts coming (to games)," he said.
Anthony coaches two female players on Ford City's varsity squad: senior defenseman Victoria Hendrickson and freshman left winger Miranda Reeseman.
While both players spoke in support of a girls division, reaction was mixed when it came to actual participation.
"I would definitely be interested," Reeseman said. "Just to be with the girls, I don't know. It feels right."
"I think it'd be good for some girls. It'd give girls an opportunity to play ... but I wouldn't like playing for the girls team as much as the guys," Hendrickson said.
Kittanning junior defenseman Caroline Mundy echoed Hendrickson's sentiments of being in favor of the league but preferring to stay with her current team.
"I think it'd be great. There's not a lot of girls hockey teams around here, honestly. You have to travel around somewhere to play hockey usually.
"I would probably stay on the boys team, because I've played with a lot of the guys since Mites (age seven or eight)," she said.
One reason Fox Chapel coach Cory Rome feels the number of girls participating in the PIHL isn't higher is the inherent physicality of a full-contact hockey league.
"The biggest difference between the girls and guys game is the hitting," he said. "Girls leagues don't have checking. There is contact, but you can't just come in and lay a shoulder (into another player)."
Rome said he knows of three or four girls at Fox Chapel alone that would be good enough to play either varsity or junior varsity hockey for his team, but for various reasons do not.
"I guarantee if there was a girls league, the three or four girls from Fox Chapel who aren't playing would want to play," he said.