Girls Hockey in Portland

The girls 14U Girls Development Program team from Rose City Hockey Club posing for a team picture. In order to get the most opportunities to play, these girls travel to tournaments in Oregon, Washington, California and Canada to play more games. Photo by David Clarke

In recent years, women’s hockey in the United States has gained national attention and continued to increase in numbers. For girls in the Portland area, there are two opportunities to play hockey: playing on a co-ed club through either the Jr. Winterhawks or the Vancouver Rangers, or playing for an all girls club, the only one in the area being Rose City Hockey Club. Courtney Carnes, one of the coaches for the Rose City Hockey Club, explains, “Both co-ed programs have the resources and numbers to provide all girls hockey but currently do not.” Due to the lack of opportunities for girls hockey, Rose City Hockey Club was founded in 2013 by Caroline Parks and Rose King. This club gives opportunities for girls to learn hockey with other girls. Before this, anyone who wanted to play hockey in the Portland area was limited to joining a co-ed club. With its creation, Rose City Hockey Club aimed to provide opportunities for girls wanting to play hockey. Parks and King wanted to create an affordable program for them to learn the sport.

Many girls find it easier to make friends and are more confident on an all girls team. When playing on co-ed teams, which aren’t at all equal in terms of gender, girls are often one of the few, if not the only, girl on the team. “Time and again, I’ve seen girls who hold their own on a co-ed team in terms of skill, but they aren’t team captains or on-ice leaders,” King explains. Rose City allows these girls to grow in a team setting. “If girls feel like they are not a part of the team they will never thrive on that team,” states Carnes.  

Unfortunately, the biggest issue facing all hockey players in Portland at the moment is ice time. With only three rinks in the Portland area, ice time can be hard to come by. Furthermore, Carnes explains, “Girls hockey is not a priority in the current state of the Portland hockey community.” This lack of time on the ice leads many players to decide to play simultaneously on co-ed teams and for the Rose City Club. By doing both they get more opportunities to play. The two Portland co-ed teams are bigger and therefore require more ice time, meaning Rose City is left with the least amount. This means girls who would rather just play for girls teams aren’t given as many opportunities as those who decided to join co-ed teams. 

Providing a space and time these girls to practice allows them to feel more confident and grow into leadership roles, which is essential if girls want to continue to play after high school. According to King, those who want to play in college are more likely to be recruited if they are on a girls team. Colleges won’t go out of their way to go to a boys tournament to see one girl play. They are more likely to go to a girls tournament where they can see hundreds of girls play. 

With only one all girls club in Portland, opportunities for games are only made possible by travel. “In order to become better as a team they must play as a team which means traveling for games and tournaments,” Carnes explains. The girls teams travel to tournaments in Canada, Washington and California and are able to play with other girls.

 Even with the limited opportunities, Rose City Hockey has continued to grow as a club over the years. Rose City offers opportunities for girls as young as five to start learning the game and every year are adding more opportunities for the girls in their club. When they started in 2013, the club did not travel to tournaments. By the 2016-17 season, Rose City started the girls development program, which is a tournament based team. Now Rose City offers both a house program for those who want to improve their skills as well as the Girls Development Program, which gives players the opportunity to play competitively at real tournaments. With the continued growth of women’s hockey in Portland, Rose City Hockey Club is on the front lines of providing girls the opportunity to grow in skills and continue to play the game they love. 

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