Women hockey players
Mar 21, 2021 - Fry Family YMCA

Breaking ice ceilings, one puck at a time at the Elmhurst YMCA

This Women’s History Month, the YMCA of Metro Chicago is highlighting the ways women and girls empower each other and create spaces for themselves at the Y. This week, we’re headed to the Elmhurst YMCA’s ice rink, where fierce, female hockey players of all ages do just that.

Though hockey has historically been a male-dominated activity, women’s ice hockey is one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S. The Elmhurst YMCA actively contributes to that growth, fostering a love of hockey among women and girls.

From their co-ed Scooters (Pre-Hockey) Program for kids aged 4-6 to their Adult Women’s Hockey Class, the Elmhurst YMCA offers an inclusive place for hockey enthusiasts to put their skates on, regardless of gender.

“Years ago, it was quite rare to see girls take up hockey—they used to have to join a local boys’ team to participate—but USA Hockey welcomed girls’ participation with open arms, and today, girls’ and women’s hockey is booming across America,” said William Gallwas, coach and hockey instructor at the Elmhurst YMCA.

In 2014, the Elmhurst YMCA hosted its first Girl’s Hockey Day event in partnership with the Chicago Blackhawks, welcoming 29 girls onto the ice. That inaugural clinic was led by U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey gold medalist, and it’s been a beloved annual tradition at the center’s ice rink ever since.

“It’s so important to offer opportunities that empower girls to develop their confidence as they learn new skills,” said Derek Schlager, Interim Executive Director of the Elmhurst YMCA.”

And the Elmhurst YMCA’s youngest hockey players aren’t the only ones who wanted in on the fun: For the past five years, the center has offered a Women’s Hockey Class where adults can work on their skating and puck handling skills, putting them to the test in an end-of-class practice scrimmage.

Many of the Women’s Hockey Class’s most enthusiastic students started off as hockey moms dropping their daughters off at the Elmhurst YMCA ice rink.

“We’ve always loved watching from the stands while our daughters played. When we found out about the women’s hockey class at the YMCA rink, we would have never imagined how much fun we’d have,” said one Elmhurst YMCA Women’s Hockey Class participant. “It was an opportunity to skate with our friends, laugh at our ridiculous falls, learn more about the game, and we’d get an amazing workout at the same time. It was hands-down the highlight of our winter! By the end of the season, we were able to hold our own on the ice with our daughters in a ‘Kids vs. Parents’ game, something we’d never been able to participate in before.”

By providing an outlet for women and girls to break ice ceilings, one puck at a time, the Elmhurst YMCA has created a unique, intergenerational community of hockey lovers.