Last month, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sat with the legendary Billie Jean King and announced a “Female Hockey Advisory Committee” with the stated goal of “accelerating the growth of female hockey in North America.”
Since then, the New York Rangers became the first NHL team to announce a new program in line with this goal - the “Junior Rangers Girls Hockey League” with Amanda Kessel as the program ambassador. The New York Islanders have sponsored a girls hockey program of their own since 2016. The two teams have approached girls hockey in different ways, both seemingly with the aim of “growing the game.”
Why would the NHL and its teams bother with girls hockey when they are adamantly staying on the sidelines regarding the women’s game? There is, of course, the utterly mercenary explanation of “youth players become adult fans.” They are tapping into the enormous growth in girls hockey as they are looking to expand their own future fan bases. While the debate over the future role of the NHL in the women’s game continues, let’s look at the Rangers and Islanders differing approaches to girls hockey. While they are potential NHL fans, these girls are also the future of the women’s game.