I’m Emma Hughes, 15, and I am looking for help with a cause to help young girls see greater representation for a sport they and I love: Ice Hockey.
I started a petition, Bring Hockey Barbie to the US, to help Mattel see that girls in the US need this doll. Girls ice hockey is one of the fastest growing youth sports in the US and it upsets me that many, especially the youngest girls of the hockey community, still see ice hockey only represented as a male sport. Barbie is still one of the top selling doll brands worldwide and yet amid the sea of pink boxes in the US - girls can be figure skaters or a figure skating coach - NOT a hockey player.
I started playing hockey four years ago and with a few skating lessons under my belt, I begged my parents to let me try hockey and it was instant love. I played for a developmental team and then spent a year on a boys team. I am currently a winger for the Leigh High Valley Phantoms Girls Youth U16AA team which requires me to travel over an hour each way for practices etc just to play. The growing number of girls, but the shrinking number of girls teams make it harder to grow the game.
I also play varsity for Morristown-Beard’s girls hockey team, but that too speaks to the inequity for girls hockey. My hometown doesn’t have a girls hockey team so I had to switch to a private school just to have the opportunity to play in high school.
One of the major benefits to Morristown-Beard’s girls hockey program is that it is led by Stanley Cup Champion Bruce Driver. He has dedicated 20 years to the girls program and helped to ensure that the first ever New Jersey State Girls Championship game was played on the Prudential Center Ice, just as it has been for the boys. Girls ice hockey didn’t even have a State Championship tournament until last year. I proudly took the ice with my teammates in the finals and won the inaugural championship. Having a coach that advocates and supports growing girls hockey, not just at the high school but beyond, is a major inspiration.
An experience two years ago stuck with me and made me so passionate about helping bring change today. After a hockey clinic, I joined my mother in the viewing area to take off my gear. At the table next to me, a little girl sat with her family watching the hockey players and figure skaters practicing with their coaches. The little girl pointed to the hockey players and said, “I want to do that.” and her father shook his head and said “No. Hockey is for boys, that is for girls” (gesturing to the figure skater). I saw the dejection in her eyes as she sunk into the chair.
I stood up and made a show of pulling off my helmet and jersey that showed off my nearly waist length sweaty ponytail. I smiled at her and she beamed proclaiming to her family, “LOOK! She’s a girl and she plays hockey!” As her parents glared I turned and continued to go about my business, but for that moment, she could point to a concrete example and say, “I can do that too!” Barbie does that for so many girls looking to be judges, doctors and soccer players, but they need to add an ice hockey player too.
In August, Mattel released an Ice Hockey Barbie in conjunction with Tim Horton’s that is sold exclusively in Canada. Part of the proceeds are going to help grow girls youth hockey. We need this in the US too!
Mattel is aware girls hockey is growing in the US. They are the parent company of both Barbie and American Girl doll, and they do offer an American Girl doll hockey dress up set for $75 (doll not included). They see the market, but have it at a price point that won’t reach the masses of girls - the ones that need to see it most.
My mother got another hockey mom to send her one from Canada for a basket she was making for our club team fundraiser. I thought the doll was really inspirational and would have liked to have one when I was younger. But then it made me angry that US girls still weren’t seeing this on the shelf. Nothing had changed from when I was at a barbie-playing age till now. That is why I started the petition, because every day that goes by without it is another girl not seeing herself represented or a missed opportunity for a girl to be inspired.
Progress to promote girls hockey is being made with the help of many NHL teams who support and try to help grow the game for young girls, but we need to do more and getting the word out. Women’s hockey doesn’t get the support or recognition that the NHL teams garner and it just continues to propagate the culture, even at the rink, that girls hockey is just a passing phase. Girls breaking barriers and wanting to be respected and recognized isn’t a phase - it’s a reality that I want to help grow.