Friday, November 6, 2009


While the boy to girl ratio on my daughter's mite team remains 18 to 1, that doesn't seem to bother her one bit. She's been with some of these boys since before they knew how to add and subtract. She parades down the rink hall just like them with a hockey stick in one hand. The other clenched fist lugs 10 pounds of gear stuffed into a bag almost as big as her into a smelly locker room. She thinks of her teammates as extended brothers who chide her when she misses a pass and fist bump her when she scores. When suited up in her protective pads, it's tough to tell her apart from all the boys, save for that tell-tale ponytail. She loves the game and playing with the boys, but she has never been thrilled with the big, bulky, dark and conservative look she inherited from her big brother. Not that she's looking to be a fashionista on the ice, but she doesn't care to always look like one of the boys. That tough-guy image is what most envision when they think of hockey, but I bet you're like me and can't help but have a soft spot in the heart whenever you see a fierce little girl with brightly-colored laces, gloves and a pink stick battling for the puck with the boys. It's a sight that shouts; Plenty of room for girls! They've so often proved they have their place on the ice.

According to USA Hockey, in 2008, nearly 60,000 women were registered and this number does not typically include girls playing for high school or college hockey teams who aren't required to register with the organization. Hockey is also becoming one of the fastest -growing women's sports at the collegiate level. Here in Central New York, you don't have to look far to find proof of that. Syracuse University, with its storied history of athletic promise, has devoted resources to a women's ice hockey team under the helm coach Paul Flanagan. SU research showed a groundswell of athletes in our area that could be recruited to play Division 1 hockey and true to the research, SU has recruited some very talented young women.
Businesses are recognizing this growing segment of the sport with more choices and better selections of shirts, jerseys and equipment with a femine flare. Among the online stores that saw the need to fill a deep void is I was curious about the business that so creatively packages hockey in a very positive way for girls. So, I contacted the company and discovered a very cool story. Based in South Portland, Maine, this business was founded by a pair of hockey moms who teamed up with hockey legend Cammi Granato to create a product line exclusively for girls. Founder Justine Carlisle was happy to answer my questions and I've posted her responses below. Justine says by offering hockey gear designed just for girls, they hope to reinforce that hockey is just as much a girls sport. They also hope to encourage more girls to pick up a stick and give hockey a try. A great goal to have because I know my daughter wouldn't mind having a few sisters on her team.
Justine, thanks for taking the time out for Syracuse Hockey Moms Network. We all know how hockey has long had the image of being a "tough guy" sport tailored to boys. Now that it's becoming more common to see girls strap on hockey skates, do you think girls are finally feeling more comfortable about claiming this as their sport too and how do you think your products have come into play ?
I think hockey is still evolving. We started BelaHockey because we felt it is intimidating for many young girls to start a sport that has been associated as a “boy’s sport” for a long time. There has been tremendous growth in the participation of girls and women in the sport over the past ten years and we believe it is just the beginning of the trend. We hope that by providing products made exclusively for girls – it will help reinforce the message (especially to young girls) that hockey is indeed a sport for them too.

What are you hearing from girls and parents about the hockey line you offer?
We receive emails frequently (mostly from moms and dads) about the products we offer. They have generally found us because they were searching on the web for something special for their daughter that plays hockey. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. They are excited to see a company catering to their girls and many have commented on how they too noticed this market was missing for their daughters.

What are your most popular items?
Our most popular products are our Katie Kaps and hockey sticks. The Katie Kap is a cotton/lycra headband that girls can wear under their helmets to help keep their hair out of their eyes. We heard from many coaches and parents before we developed the product that this was very frustrating for female players on the ice. The design for the Kap was inspired by Cammi’s niece who had used a t-shirt sleeve to keep her hair out of her eyes.
Our sticks are big sellers too because they are completely unique. You can also have them personalized with your name and number. The girls love that!

What are some of the hot trends in hockey gear for girls right now? Are you testing out some new designs?
We have many new products in the works. We are about to introduce a new backpack. It should be on our website in a week. The backpack has adjustable stick holders. It is great for organizing gear and clothing for travel tournaments and games. We are also introducing a line of red, white and blue products prior to the Olympics in Vancouver. We will be offering jerseys, Katie Kaps, skate socks, and hockey socks in patriotic colors.
Lastly, we are working on the design for an intermediate/women’s stick. We have had a lot of requests from women players and hope to have something for them next season

What kind of rewards have you enjoyed since starting BelaHockey?
The whole process has been a whirlwind. The idea for Bela came to us three years ago when our children started playing hockey and we discovered that there just weren’t any products encouraging girls to play. It started out as an idea and before we knew it we were traveling with Cammi to Chicago, LA, and Denver to promote the company at NHL hockey games. We have had many wonderful moments but I have to say the emails from families and photos of the girls wearing our gear are the most satisfying.
Thanks Justine and I have exciting news to share with all of you. Cammi Granato has also agreed to be interviewed for the blog and I'll be working on putting that article together for you soon. Stay tuned.

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