It started with a sport called ringette. Two decades ago, it became girls’ high school hockey.
Feb. 4 was a monumental day for girls’ athletics. Marking the 21st anniversary of the Minnesota High School Girls’ Hockey State Championship, the day celebrated over two decades of girls’ participation in a sport that was dominated by boys for over 90 years. The first girls’ state hockey tournament was held in 1995 and allowed girls to participate in a sport that they would grow to love.
“I joined my freshman year and because it was a newer sport, it didn’t matter if you had experience beforehand or not,” said Emily Kennett, assistant to the athletic director and business office at Minnehaha Academy. “Having ice skating experience, I was able to join the girls’ hockey team even though I’d never played hockey before.”
Kennett played for the high school team at Minnehaha a few years after the beginning of girls’ high school hockey.
Although this was part of the many new athletic programs being introduced to girls after the Title IX amendment in 1972, hockey was an important step for female athletics because it established a new precedent for girls’ athletics.
“Obviously [the beginning of girls’ high school hockey] was a big deal for these young ladies,” said Dave Palmquist, former MA boys’ hockey coach and current head coach of the South St. Paul girls’ hockey team. “Not unlike the boys, it was a big deal for these young ladies to play for their school, play for their community and be a part of hockey.”
Palmquist believes that hockey provided girls with equal opportunity to participate in the same sports as their male peers, when in the past they only would have been allowed to participate in sports specifically geared towards girls.
One sport designed for girls was ringette, a game that was created in 1963 and introduced in 1991 for a brief period of time as an alternative to girls’ hockey in Minnesota and other states. Ringette shares the same fundamental structure and rules as hockey but is played using a stick with no blade and a ring instead of a puck.
“Ringette was an alternative sport that they offered to girls instead of hockey,” said Palmquist. “Then, back about 20 years ago, there was a big push from a group of young ladies who wanted to play hockey.”
Many alternative sports, like ringette, didn’t catch on. Although ringette is still played in some places, when girls’ hockey was introduced it quickly became more popular and has continually gained momentum through the years.
“By the time I had started [hockey], a lot of other schools had teams as well,” said Kennett. “It was such a great experience and learning to play girls’ hockey was really influential on my life.”
The early years of girls’ high school hockey had a profound influence on both Kennett and Palmquist’s lives and have continued to make a difference in girls’ athletics today.
“I was blessed to be a part of the first ever state tournament [for girls’ hockey] in Minnesota history,” said Palmquist. “The girls had a strong passion and love for the game and those first few games were exciting because they were really making an impact on the future of girls’ hockey down the road.”
WATCH THE MA GIRLS’ HOCKEY TEAM PLAY RINGETTE!