Limited access hurts female hockey players


In the diverse sports landscape of the Bay Area, opportunities to play a wide variety of sports at different levels of competition are abundant. However due to the lack of ice in the Bay Area, the ice hockey community is noticeably smaller than those of other sports. On top of that, female ice hockey players face challenges of limited access to facilities and specialized coaching in a traditionally male-dominated sport.

The Oakland Ice Center is the only ice rink in the East Bay for hockey players to play in. “There’s probably like fifteen kids in the East Bay, that are at my level and my age, that play hockey,” Savannah Johnson, a BHS senior and ice hockey player, said.  Since most programs for the Oakland Ice Center are co-ed, it leaves no options for an all-girls team. 

With limited options for all-girls teams in Oakland, female players find themselves overshadowed in the dominant male sport. “I had a really hard time joining a co-ed team and to play with a lot of the male players and coaches,” Lexi Boutrous, a BHS sophomore and ice hockey player, said. “They did not treat me right in the beginning.”

The prevailing culture compels female hockey players to adopt a tough exterior and work twice as hard for the validation of male athletes. “It’s like it’s so ingrained that like, as the girl you have to work harder,” Johnson said. “You have to be better than the guys to be able to compete; the idea of crying or (showing) weakness is like not allowed in a lot of ways.” 

With the lack of all-girl teams, it can be hard to be included among the co-ed teams. “All of the coaches and teammates I’ve had were males, which kept me divided from them,” Boutrous said. Due to the gender disparity, it created a sense of isolation but also impeded her ability to fully connect and integrate with the team dynamics. “At one point, because of my performance not meeting the expectations for my team, I was pretty much told to go home and not play anymore,” Boutrous said.

However, farther down in San Jose, more opportunities are available for female ice hockey players. “Our only option to be able to play for an all-girls team is in San Jose,” Sage Dalla, a junior ice hockey player at BHS, said. “It’s really unfair, especially for people who can’t commute that far.”

Despite the challenges, the tight-knit community in Oakland offers opportunities for development for young athletes. Programs such as Try Hockey allow all children between the age of 4 to 16 to try hockey. “I’ve been part of the program for a long time and I coach, it’s actually really fun,” Johnson said. 

Moreover, the addition of Girls Try Hockey at the Oakland Ice Center welcomes young girls every Saturday to learn the sport. “There are a lot of girls that I teach who want to continue playing hockey in the future,” Dalla said. “Their parents will ask me about hockey lessons and it’s incredibly gratifying. I’m always excited when girls want to join.”