This is the first post in a series in our June, 2021 update to our Women’s College Hockey Recruiting Insights infographic. For this analysis we looked at how many commitments have already taken place by academic year, including this past 2020 academic year. This way female players can get a feel for the number of spots that are still open for DI women’s college recruiting
As you can see, just about as many commits have already been made for this coming 2021 year as in 2020 (211 vs. 213), so it looks like most team are full for 2021 and it is unlikely that more than a handful of new announcements will be made over the coming months. In addition, it looks like there could be somewhere between 50-70 new commitments to start in 2022, in addition to the current 148 commitments. This assumes that the additional year of eligibility for current students does not greatly reduce the number of spots for next year. Finally, as of June 1st, 2021, only 28 commitments have been made for the 2023 academic year, so this summer should be quite busy for those players, as many schools seem to have most of their spots open for those 2023 grads.
This past weekend I attended my first USA Hockey Girls District Camp in Las Vegas for the Pacific District with my daughter (2006 birth year). As someone who is new to this whole process, I wanted to share what I learned attending my first USA Hockey Girls District Camp. There were many things I didn’t know or understand until we went through the experience and I had conversations with the organizers & coaches in attendance. Since the Pacific District Camp was one of the first ones to be held in 2021, hopefully there are other players and parents who can take some of this information to help them with their own preparation.
Which players were invited?
Like all USA Hockey girls district camps, there were two age groups. One for 15 year-olds (2006 birth year) and one for 16- and 17 year-olds (2005, 2004 birth years). The players were selected by their state affiliates (e.g. California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska) with the numbers of players from each affiliate somewhat in proportion to the # of USA Hockey registration participation level. So, if a state had twice as many female players for an age group, they would be allocated twice as many sports at the district camp.
At each level players were placed on to one of 4 teams comprising of up to 9 Forward, 6 D and 2 Goalies.
On-Ice practices were run by DIII coaches with assistance from affiliate coaches. These practices were straight out of the USA Hockey ADM practice philosophy which included a 4-station rotation, half ice small area drills & games and of course some cross-ice games with different types of variations of 3-on-3. From my observation, while there was the occasional tip from a coach here and there, there was not a lot of heavy technical feedback, instead the tone was quite positive and focused on giving the girls a lot of reps.
For games, each team played the other 3 teams once. Games consisted of three 22-minute periods of running time, with a break at the 11-minute mark for the 2 goalies on each team to switch and ensure equal playing time. For most games, the scores were not posted on the scoreboard and all penalties were enforced as penalty shots with players chasing down the shooter from behind.
The Zoom calls mainly focused on education players on the college recruiting process and the do’s & don’ts when communicating with college coaches. Many of the same topics that we have covered in the Champs App Podcast were covered in these calls.
Before arriving at the PDC, there was not a lot of information shared about the evaluation process, however I did speak in-depth with Kathy McGarrigle, the Pacific District Girls Hockey Director, who was responsible for organizing the entire weekend (she is also the Founder, Program Director and Head Coach for the Anaheim Lady Ducks). She graciously answered all my questions.
Kathy explained to me that, historically, the Pacific District joined forces with the Rocky Mountain District to have a Multi-District Camp, but with the expected growth in girl’s hockey in Nevada and Washington thanks to the Golden Knights and Kraken, the Pacific District is focusing on having their own camp for the coming years.
Kathy McGarrigle made it clear to me that all of the evaluators were from outside of the Pacific district to ensure complete objectivity and that process was not political. No one affiliated with a club or program is involved in the decision making. The evaluators consisted of DIII team coaches who were behind the bench and on the ice during games and practices, but several off-ice evaluators who stood in their own blocked-off section away from spectators. Beyond the evaluators for the Pacific District Camp, there were additional USA Hockey evaluators scouting the event for the national camps in July. They were there to see if any 15/16 year-old players were strong enough to be chosen directly for the U18 National camp as well as capture additional information on top players being considered for all the national camps.
There were no DI coaches in attendance likely due to the recruiting blackout period which does not get lifted until June 1st combined with those coaches being more focused on the national camp players (who are most likely to be DI prospects).
While no specific or official guidelines were provided as to what was being evaluated, Kathy mentioned to me all the basics in terms of hockey skills like skating and passing, team play, character and effort. In addition, she emphasized that scoring the most goals didn’t guarantee anything, they were looking at the complete player over the entirety of the weekend.
Evaluators watched all games and practices for the specific age groups they were assigned to (either 2006 or 2004/05). The third and final games were where all the evaluators were together watching the players at the same time. Kathy explained to me that at the end of each day the evaluators convened to discuss the top players and systemically put together a dynamic rank of players which does not get finalized until after the final games on Sunday.
For the players in attendance at the camp, the ultimate goal is to be selected for one of the three National Player Development Camps taking place this July in Minnesota (15s, 16s/17s and 18U). Once again, the number of spots allotted to the Pacific District is based on the percent of registrants in USA Hockey, of which the Pacific District represents ~6% of the player population. Since the 15s National camp has about 216 players in attendance, then the Pacific District should get ~13 spots (plus or minus) for that age group. For the 16s/17s, those numbers there are the same number of spots, but for both birth years since that camp is combined, thus the number of spots is allocated by birth year in proportion in registration percentage.
Kathy informed me that the final list of invites to the national camp would likely not be released until June 9th, 2021 since the Pacific Camp was one of the first in the country to be completed. As the players who will be invited to the U18 Camp are decided, there is a cascading effect on who will get invited to the 16s/17s camp and is dependent on other districts completing their camps. Thus, the delay of nearly a month until we will are informed on the Pacific selections.
Overall, the weekend was a great opportunity for the girls to compete with the top players on the west coast and see how they compare. In reality, there was a big standard deviation in talent, but this is something I expected since the Pacific teams tend not to be as strong for girls hockey as other areas of the country. So, hopefully it was a good learning opportunity to benchmark and self-reflect on which part of their game each player needs to work on.
Unfortunately, due to the Covid protocols and the short weekend, no formal feedback was provided to the girls (only ad hoc on-ice or behind-the-bench guidance). As Kathy suggested to me during the weekend, if a player wanted feedback, they should proactively query their coach. That would be my recommendation to players who have upcoming camps in other districts, to ask their coach for their advice on their specific development needs towards the end of the camp.
P.S. A memorable part of the weekend was when a parent from Alaska recognized my Champs hat and asked “Are you the Champs App Podcast guy?” and thanked me for the podcasts.
As part of Jocelyn and Monique Lamoureux’s book release, they did a ton of promotion including several podcasts. On one them they Jocelyn Lamoureux mentioned her masters thesis “Should Girls Play Hockey With Boys? Perspectives From The USA Women’s Olympic Hockey Team“. For the past several years I have heard many points of view on girls playing boys hockey with some consistent recommendations (mostly “play with the boys as long as you can”). But this was the first time I heard of actual research on the subject. By soliciting data directly from US National Team players, Lamoureux was able to codify the tradeoffs and benefits from choosing to play with boys for a significant portion of their time in youth hockey.
Lamoureux’s conclusion was pretty unanimous: “Out of 15 players, 15 of them recommended that girl’s play with boys, but one player said yes and no depending on what the goals were of the individual playing.” This doesn’t mean that playing girls-only hockey won’t get you to the national team, it just discusses how playing with the boys helped those that did play with boys. What the research doesn’t cover is if the path to the U.S. National Team is possible from only playing with girls. Thus, if a female player wants to make the national team, they would likely need to ensure that they are still developing the same sets of skills that Lamoureux’s research concluded was key to player success achieved through playing boys hockey.
Based on the research, some additional information I have collected from podcast interviews and my parental experience, here are some thoughts on the key factors for girls playing boys hockey:
By playing with boys, girls are likely to develop better key priority hockey skills via several contributing factors:
There is some research which shows that during practice boys compete harder and for a longer period of time
Playing boys hockey provides more options for a female player to find a team whose skill level is at the right level for the player
In my conversations with former female players, coaches and club directors, the consensus is that “on average” top boys club teams tend to have better coaching in minor hockey. While this is certainly changing and improving on a region-by-region basis, girls coaching is not yet at parity with the boys especially at the early age groups.
Safety of the Player:
USA Hockey recommends that girls should stop playing with boys when, due to size or speed, the player would be at risk of injury due to full-contact checking. Not all girls are big enough or have the confidence to play with boys once the boys have hit puberty. Each player must decide for themselves how long they are comfortable playing with boys from a safety perspective.
Social Development and Team Culture:
From my experience, there is no doubt that the social dynamics for a girl playing with boys is very different than on an all-girls team. However, the culture on each boy’s team is different and the experience can be both positive and negative from a social development perspective. It really depends on the leadership of the coaching staff and the personalities of the players in the locker room.
During my conversation with female college coaches who played with boys growing up, they consistently said that the boys on their team treated them pretty well. However, verbal taunts and occasionally “getting run at” by players on the other team was pretty common. So, a female player should be prepared and comfortable with those risks.
As noted in a previous post, it is rare for a female player to play college hockey while only playing on boys club or high school teams (other than at national development camps). So clearly from a recruiting perspective, there is a significant benefit to being scouted by college teams. Coaches rarely attend boys events to watch a single female player. The advice I have heard from several college coaches is a hybrid, where a female player can play on a boys team as their primary winter season team and either play girls during spring/summer tournaments or, if permitted, double roster on a girls team during the regular season (e.g. play girls AAA and boys high school).
Playing with boys helps, but it is a personal decision
In conclusion, playing on a boy’s team during key developmental minor hockey years appears to provide all the right ingredients for girls to reach their full potential as a hockey player. Depending on where you live, playing with boys could help develop their skills and knowledge of the game more than just playing on the local girl’s team. However, this does not in any way discount that girls can likely achieve the same level of development and success by finding substitute methods of achieving these same skills and knowledge by growing up playing with girls only.
I was doing some research over the holidays to understand the state of women’s hockey in North America and found a few interesting insights between the U.S. and Canadian female hockey participation and coaching at the university level. Here they are:
Overall Female Participation
1. Total hockey participation is about 8% more in Canada over the U.S., but female participation in Canada is 21% more than in the U.S.
Male to Female Participation
2. The ratio of Male to Female hockey players in the U.S. is ~6:1. In other words, female hockey players only make up 15% of all players in the U.S. While in Canada the ratio is ~5:1 while female players represent 17% of all players in Canada.
Under 18 Girls in Canada vs U.S.A.
3. While female hockey players in both the U.S. and Canada grew by a little more than 2% in 2019-20 (compared to male player which had declines in both countries), there are still about 25% more female players under 18 in Canada compared to the U.S.
Female U.S. Division I Women’s Hockey Coaches
4. Only 33% of U.S. Division I women’s hockey coaches are female, while 67% of their assistant/associate coaches are female
Female Canadian U Sports Women’s Hockey Coaches
5. 46% of U Sports Head Coaches in Canada are women while 54% of their Assistant/Associates Coaches are female.
Here is my interpretation of the data:
The U.S. still has some work to do to catch up to Canada on female participation in the sport. “Girls Give Hockey a Try” is a phenomenal start, but I think there is even more that can be done.
I suspect it will take a major change in one of the countries development programs before one will be the dominant hockey power. Due to density issues in the States with less players distributed in more metropolitan areas than Canada, it would take a significant commitment/investment to build a sizeable lead over Canada.
I was expecting to see more female head coaches in both Canada and the U.S.. However, given the male to female ratio of participation in both countries, the male coaching advantage in women’s college hockey is not a complete surprise. I would suspect that these numbers will flip to favor female head coaches over the coming years as they are given more opportunity and the recent generation of women players move into and up the coaching ranks.
Five prominent schools (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Dartmouth, Princeton, Clarkson) have not had any publicly announced commitments since the new NCAA rules were implemented in May, 2019
The days-before-starting-school commitment days have been halved since the new NCAA recruiting rules were implements (1113 before, 553 after). Which essentially means the average player’s commitment has moved from mid-February of their Junior Year, to Mid-August of Sophomore Year
Before the new rules were implemented, Wisconsin women’s hockey players committed on average 4 years prior to starting at U of W
Currently, only 5 school average less than a year for their commits – 294 days (St. Lawrence University, RIT, Sacred Heart University, Post University Lindenwood University)
Now: Here are the Top 10 schools that are the most aggressive to sign recruits (since the new rules were implemented):
Before: Top 10 School who used to sign the earliest commits prior to the rule changes:
If you want to know which girl’s hockey clubs or schools produce the most DI women’s college hockey commits, here is your answer:
We looked at 526 college hockey commits that are posted on the College Hockey Inc’s women’s college hockey commits web page starting with the 2020 academic year and beyond. There were 94 programs that produced at least 2 DI commits, but the Top 25 represented about 50% of all the commits. And the Top 50 represented about 75% of all the committed players. So, while there is a long tail of places a player can come from, the significant majority are recruited from some of the most well-known girls hockey organizations.