The Seattle Junior Lady Admirals are a group of young women dedicated to the male-dominated sport of ice hockey. Practicing at the Lynnwood Ice Arena, their 12U (ages 11-12) team is brand new, even younger and blazing a trail for young girls’ hockey in Washington state.
The Lady Admirals is only the second 12U all-girls hockey team in Washington state — and the only one playing in an American league (the Metropolitan Hockey League), according to parent Drew Langland. They will spend the next months practicing and traveling, working out with the 14U girls and playing against co-ed and all-boys teams.
“I think it’s a pretty unique opportunity because younger girls that play hockey don’t normally get to play with other girls,” player Emily Orleans, of Lynnwood, said.
These girls are sharp. They explained the differences in the sport between all-girls and co-ed games, displaying their excitement at the prospect of playing with other girls.
“With the boys it’s a more selfish game, and with the girls its camaraderie. And there’s lots more passing,” player Nai’a Langlend, of Mountlake Terrace, said. The other girls agreed.
Many of these girls are still playing on a boys or co-ed team now, because that is the traditional route for girls at this age who want to be competitive in hockey. The experience playing with girls at this age will be vital considering competitive hockey is gendered for all-male or all-female from the next level (14U) and on to professional hockey.
“I’m excited about having an environment where everybody is working hard and everybody wants to improve, and where we can have fun together but we’re still very serious about hockey,” said Megumi Whisman, who lives in Des Moines. “I’m also excited that we can trust each other, that we can pass to each other and know that they’re going to pass back.” The team recently completed their tryouts for the season. Head coach Jim Levin said they had 21 girls try out, offered 17 spots, and have confirmed 14 acceptances of their offers. Three girls are still deciding.
Last year, the Seattle Junior Association saw that 38 percent of their 12U players were girls. “We realized that putting together an all-girls team was a possibility this year because we had the numbers to support it,” said Jim O’Brien, the team manager. O’Brien pushed for the creation of the 12U girls’ team. He is also the founder of GirlsHockeyClub.org, a nonprofit created to support the growth of youth girls’ hockey clubs.
“In addition, we had some girls that played at a very high level and wanted to continue to play at a high level but didn’t want to travel to Canada every weekend to do that,” O’Brien said. “This team allows the girls to play together, play local, and play a high level competition.”
The team will also provide the girls with the opportunity to travel to play — besides the trip many girls take simply to get to practice in Lynnwood. Lady Admirals players come from many areas — as close as Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace and as far away as the Tri-Cities — to practice at the Lynnwood Ice Arena. But as a team, they are planning bus tours up to the lower inland area of British Columbia and to Eastern Washington. They are even hoping for a trip to Las Vegas.
“I’m really excited to get to travel out far and play hockey, and also finally get to know some of the girls on our team,” Orleans said. She explained that the girls only practiced about once per month while the team was still developing. “We never really got to see each other at all,” she said.
The girls made it clear that they are here to play tough. They said they don’t plan on participating in the “screwing around” that happens at co-ed practices, and as such, they intend to make the boys step up their game. “They step up, and with them stepping up it gives us a better level to play at, to practice for when we play girls teams,” Langland said.
O’Brien raved about the dedication of the players and families in this unique club. “Parents that have girls that play hockey are all in,” he said. “They support their daughters growth and development way further than most.
“Since the sport is more boy dominant, girls that play hockey have a tremendous amount of fight in them, self-confidence, and determination,” he added.
O’Brien expressed confidence in the girls’ dedication and capabilities. “This group of girls will produce a couple of college Division 1 players,” he said. “If they work hard I could see one or two of them going even further.”
— Story and photos by Mardy Harding