Ice hockey invitation goes out to girls The West Chester School District held a free skate. The idea was to raise interest in the sport.

Posted: March 02, 2008

The sign read: Girls in the West Chester School District who are in grades 5-11 are invited to a free skate at Ice Line. Bring your own skates or a free pair will be provided. No experience necessary.

The date for the free skate, intended to stir interest in ice hockey, was last Sunday. Forty girls, some already into playing ice hockey but many others with no experience, showed up.

One team represents the West Chester district in the girls' division of the Inter County Scholastic Hockey League. Organizers of the program are looking eventually to have three teams - one for each of the high schools in the district: West Chester East, Bayard Rustin and West Chester Henderson.

"This was being done for the school district as a whole. The idea was to introduce them to ice hockey at a low-key level," said Karen Young, one of the organizers and mother of an eighth-grade boy, Charlie, who plays school ice hockey, and two younger daughters, Emily and Erin, who are considering it. "We didn't want them to be intimidated.

"The boys do tend to dominate the club teams. Although girls can play on them, our intention is to get teams that are just made up of girls. It was awesome to see the number of girls who turned out."

Paula Jorgensen, who was instrumental in getting a girls' team started at Conestoga and is director of the ICSHL girls' division, said the division has eight teams. That is expected to grow next year with the addition of as many as three teams. Teams representing Lower Merion and Great Valley have expressed interest.

The teams are not supported by the schools, but are sanctioned to use the school name.

"The girls' division started with two teams, and now we have eight," Jorgensen said. "In the last four years, we have doubled the size."

Jorgensen, who was at Ice Line for last Sunday's session, said she was pleasantly surprised by the turnout.

"I didn't know how many we'd get," she said. "Many of them were middle schoolers, which is what we need."

Stetson Middle School sixth-grader Jessica Brink was one of those who showed up with little ice hockey experience. She had played in a clinic when she was younger, but she's very familiar with the sport because her brother Matt, a sophomore, plays for Rustin.

"I go to see his games," she said. "I like fast-moving sports. I come to Ice Line regularly, and I saw the signs on the door."

Rustin 10th-grader Nicole Sheriko, who plays for the lone girls' team representing the district, was at the session to see if she could encourage friends to join her.

"There were a few kids I recognized from middle school," she said.

What's next for those who showed up?

Young said she plans to be in touch so that in the not-too-distant future, there will be a girls' ice hockey team representing each of the district's high schools.

Contact staff writer Don Beideman at 610-701-7613 or dbeideman@phillynews.com.

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