Your source for CHS news


Your source for CHS news


Your source for CHS news


Women’s hockey players continue to navigate male-dominated sport

Anuj Gupta
Sophie Ramos, Carmel women’s Icehounds player and junior, watches a hockey match through the glass. When asked about people’s reaction to her playing hockey, Ramos said, “Sometimes people are just like ‘Oh I wouldn’t expect that from you’ or they’ll say ‘I didn’t know women’s hockey was a thing.”

Mallory Cheslock, Carmel women’s Icehounds player and senior, had an unusual introduction to the sport of hockey which she has now played for 12 years.

“(My family) was at a store which had hockey equipment and there was a pink helmet and my parents asked me if I would start playing hockey if they bought it,” she said. “So I started playing because of a pink helmet.”

While Cheslock’s reason for starting to play hockey might be unique, she is not alone. A growing number of girls join hockey programs across the United States. According to USAHockey, women’s hockey has seen a participation increase of 65%. Despite this, hockey continues to be a male dominated sport, as only around 15% of hockey players are women

Kris May, Indianapolis Youth Hockey Association (IYHA) coach and director said she has seen hockey become more accessible for women.

“Now it’s almost commonplace for girls to play a number of sports that have always been traditionally male,” May said via email. “Since having women’s Olympic teams since 1998, the sport has exploded as far as girls’ accessibility and the popularity of the sport.”

While Cheslock said she agrees with May that women’s hockey has become more accessible across the country, Cheslock added that Indiana still can improve.

“A lot of rinks will host events where girls can go and get gear to try on and they don’t have to pay to play, and there’s definitely a lot more girls teams… not in Indiana, but in general there’s a lot more opportunities,” she said.

Sophie Ramos, Carmel women’s Icehounds player and junior, said she hopes women’s hockey in Indiana will become as accessible as it is in hockey states such as Minnesota and Michigan.

“Here in Indiana, we have one program and there’s a lack of funding so it’s very expensive, so here in Indiana we lack the opportunities for a lot of young girls to try hockey,” Ramos said. 

Cheslock said she’s had challenges competing on majority boys’ teams. 

“Probably the biggest challenge (I’ve faced) is being a girl on a boys’ team. When I was younger, it was definitely a challenge with other teams giving me crap about it,” Cheslock said. “Locker rooms are also a big thing, like sometimes I’d be put in a bathroom and people would be walking in. It’s just awkward.”

May said she had a similar experience as Cheslock when she played hockey, as she was the only girl in her youth league. While May said she enjoyed challenging stereotypes, she would feel embarrassed due to the lack of a women’s locker room.

“What didn’t feel good was dressing in closets or restrooms or concession stands or in the middle of the lobby because there was no dressing room for girls,” May said.

Ramos said she has gotten surprised reactions when she tells people she plays hockey.

“Sometimes people are just like ‘Oh I wouldn’t expect that from you’ or they’ll say ‘I didn’t know women’s hockey was a thing,” Ramos said. 

Ramos said the camaraderie she feels with her hockey team outweighs the negative reactions she occasionally gets from others.

“I definitely feel more of a connection with my teammates and it’s more of a communal environment than any other sport I’ve been a part of,” Ramos said.

Sophie Ramos, Carmel women’s Icehounds player and junior, stands on the sideline watching the court at a game. Ramos said that she thinks the expensive cost of getting into hockey prevents many girls from trying it out.

May said she decided to direct the girl’s hockey program for the IYHA due to her positive experiences playing hockey, which she views as a sport focused on sportsmanship and the togetherness of a team.

“I decided young girls need that and that’s why I wanted to start a girl’s and women’s program,” May said.

Cheslock said with the introduction of more youth girls’ programs, women’s and men’s hockey have grown into two unique sports 

“Women’s hockey is a lot more mental,” she said. “You have to make smarter decisions and you have a lot more time and space then you would in men’s hockey.”

May said she agrees with Cheslock, and women’s hockey deals more with strategy and collaboration.

“The male game can be very one dimensional with a lot of individual play. The female game is the essence of teamwork,” May said.

The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) is a new women’s hockey league which will replace the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF), and the league will start on Jan. 1. May said she hopes the PWHL will become a success.

“I want to see (the PWHL) succeed, and be sustainable. It’s just yet another level of hockey that my kids can aspire to,” she said.

Cheslock said while she hopes to see the PWHL succeed, she wants to see the league improve upon the PHF, which she said had a limited number of teams and could not afford to pay their players a living wage.

“I know one of my coaches played for the (PHF team) Connecticut Whalers and she got paid $5000 a year to play there professionally, which is not a liveable (wage) and it was a fulltime schedule, so she could only play because her family was wealthy,” Cheslock said. “I definitely hope there are more teams (added) too. The NHL (National Hockey League) has 32 teams and the women’s hockey league has six.”

Ramos said she hopes the PWHL will form its own unique identity, and will not be seen as just an extension of the NHL.

“I think that women’s hockey is not really advertised for and most of the time when it is advertised, it is advertised as an extension of the men’s program. The women’s team doesn’t have its own individual coverage,” Ramos said. “Just giving women’s hockey its own name and its own attention might help it grow as a sport.”

Overall, Ramos said she hopes the PWHL will help grow girl’s hockey across the United States, so programs can become more accessible and gain access to more support and funding.

“It’s just important to me that women’s hockey grows because I feel like as a women’s hockey player, the women’s programs lack funding, they lack coaches, they lack attention and that’s normally because the sport doesn’t get enough coverage,” she said. “Hopefully with (the PWHL) there will be a growth in youth women’s hockey players.”

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