The players of the NWHL are continuing to make certain that the next generation of women’s hockey players will have an easier path to becoming professional athletes. Whether it’s Jordan Smelker, Rebecca Russo, Anya Battaglino, Jacquie Greco, or any of the fantastic women that make up the current crop of NWHLers, they are leaving their footprints and leaving quite the impression on countless little girls who now have role models to look up to and aspire to be.
As part of the NWHL 2018 Summer Series, various players from the league’s clubs have been at the rink the past few months running youth hockey camps to help players work on their skills. Young players from 6 to 15 years old are able to spend an hour on the ice with NWHL stars working on shooting, skating, stick-handling, and goalie drills. The enthusiasm of the campers is evident and you can see their smiles through the cages on their helmets as they shuffle on and off the ice.
At the most recent camp run by the Riveters in late July, I spoke with two of the NWHL champions in attendance as coaches about what it means to them and what they think the lasting impression can be on future professional women’s hockey players.
Kimberly Sass: All the young goalies that came out today really were excited to get on the ice with a player that they have looked up to after being at our games. I remember clinics that I used to go to that female college players were coaching. Something that we always looked forward to was after the clinic — after we worked with them on the ice and got to know them a little bit — we were able to go into their locker room and get autographs and stuff like that. I still remember being so excited and nervous to go up to them with my poster to get signed. It’s awesome to see that same impact that we have on these kids.
Alexa Gruschow: These camps are extremely important and that’s why we do it. It raises awareness about us as a league and the Riveters. But the more important thing is that we are building it up for the younger generation and helping develop them. Showing that they could be in our skates one day, and they really love it. You could see it in the smiles on their faces, in them getting their jerseys or sticks signed. That means the world to us that they look up to us that way and we just want to keep that image. We want to make sure that they keep coming to the games and keep viewing us as role models. It gives them a chance to see a bright future in women’s hockey for themselves. We’re showing them that, hopefully, we can make this a career for them one day, to be a professional women’s hockey player.