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WHS girls' hockey gets green light

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington Hockey Association announced in a letter to the players and association members on Thursday that the Worthington Trojan girls' hockey team will not need to merge with the Windom Hockey Association for girls varsity hockey.

"We have verbal commitments from 17 girls right now, but we will see at registration how things fall out," Worthington Hockey Association President Kevin Black said. "That number is up from the nine girls we were left with after last season. Because of that, the school board dropped the talks of a merger with Windom."

Earlier this year, the association put together a recruiting committee in the hopes of generating more interest in the girls program both at the varsity and U12 levels. The committee used multiple group events for girls interested in playing hockey this next year, including floor hockey games and a "Try Hockey for Free Night" where anyone could come to the rink, try on some hockey gear and skate around the ice.

"This whole deal was a wake-up call to us as an association in how lax we were being with our recruiting, especially with the girls," Black said. "As an organization, we do a lot of good things, but all of those things take a lot of time. So we decided to start a recruiting committee made up of people who were passionate about getting more kids to try hockey."

The committee's efforts were rewarded when it was announced that the Worthington girls' varsity team would have enough players to field a team this year and, most likely, many years to come.

"I was really excited when I found out, and I know it will be a really fun year," returning girls varsity player Betsy Thompson said. "It was tough not knowing all summer if we were going to have a team or not, but now that we know we will have a team I'm really excited for the season to start."

Even though the start of the hockey season is still a few months away, the Worthington Hockey Association plans on holding more team building events for the varsity and younger girls in order to let the girls bond before the season starts.

"The main thing for us is to emphasize that this is just a start for us as a program," Black said. "If we will be competitive for a year or two is yet to be seen, but this is just the start of the process."

The hardest part for the new players will be learning the basics of hockey and trying not to get discouraged if things don't come to them right away.

"Just getting the fundamentals down is the first step for the new girls, especially if they haven't played much hockey before," Thompson said. "Once they have those down, they can build off of that. But for now, everyone will need to focus on their fall sports."

The hockey association will also be focusing on building up the new U12 girls' team, which will also help keep the numbers up at the varsity level.

"We had a couple coaches step up who wanted to coach the U12 team, so that was really nice," Black said. "It looks like we will have 12 to 14 girls right now. It is a better situation for us to be in now."

The girls hockey team starts practice Oct. 28, with their first game coming on Nov. 15, against St. Peter/LeSueur/Henderson.