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Trojan Girls Hockey: Worthington Hockey Association looks to get more young girls hooked on hockey

Jordan Willi/Daily Globe A group of kids play around on the concrete floor of the Worthington Hockey Arena during a floor hockey event Thursday. The event was put on by the Worthington Hockey Association in hopes of boosting the number of girls in the program.1 / 3
Jordan Willi/Daily Globe A group of young kids try their hand at hockey during a floor hockey event put on by the Worthington Hockey Association Thursday at the Worthington Hockey Arena.2 / 3
Jordan Willi/Daily Globe Current Worthington girls' varsity hockey player Allison Kremer (right) talks to a young girl about hockey and possibly signing up to join the organization during a floor hockey event put on by the Worthington Hockey Association Thursday at the Worthington Hockey Arena.3 / 3

WORTHINGTON -- In an attempt to recruit enough players to field a girls varsity hockey team this coming season, the Worthington Hockey Association put its recruiting efforts into high gear Thursday night by hosting a girls floor hockey event at the Worthington Hockey Arena.

"Hopefully, this event is a starting point for our program to build up players," WHS girls hockey coach Eric Milbrath said. "Tonight we have kids who are 3, 4 years old here to seniors in high school. That builds the lower programs and helps build up those girls' skills as they move up to varsity."

The Trojans currently have nine players signed up to play, but they will need a total of 15 by Sept. 1, or the team will be forced to co-op with Windom. Thursday's event was the first in many similar events planned by the hockey association to increase the number of girls within the program.

"We are working on having more events throughout the rest of the summer for those girls who want to join the teams," Jared Foster, head of the Worthington Hockey Association Recruiting Committee, said. "We want to start building our association to where we will be at a good place."

One thing the hockey association has already done to try and raise the number of girls within the Worthington program is add a girls U12 team.

"I think we will get a lot more players with us adding a U12 team," goalie/forward Bailey Kruse said. "It will help those girls build up some experience so that in a couple of years you will have a group of girls who can move up and help out the varsity team."

Many of the varsity team's current members came out for the event in hopes of showing everyone how much fun hockey can be.

"It is tough, because every single year we lose so many players," defenseman Allison Kremer said. "Our girls don't realize how much fun hockey is until their junior or senior year. So, it is nice to see all these girls out here who are young and are starting to learn hockey when they are young."

Although the coaches and players hope to keep their team in Worthington, Milbrath recognizes that the reasons behind the move make sense.

"When I first heard the proposal, I had mixed emotions," Milbrath said. "You don't want to see your hometown team lose their team, especially one you are a part of. Windom has a good program, but they are also struggling with numbers as well.

"So I understand the benefits of joining to save both teams so that everyone can play. It is a tough choice, but I hope it works out in our favor that we get the numbers."

Like Milbrath, many of the players agree that if it comes down to it, they would rather co-op with Windom and get to play hockey than not have a team at all.

"I think that it is really good that we are trying to get girls together to keep the team and make the team better as a Worthington program," Allison Vote said. "But if it came down to it joining Windom, we would make the best of the situation and work together as a team."

Veteran players such as Kremer, Kruse and Vote know there are many reasons why some girls don't want to come out for hockey, but they also know that if given a chance, all the girls who join will end up loving the game as much as they do.

"You don't have to know how to skate, know the plays or know what you are doing," Kremer said. "You learn that stuff through practices and games where you learn from your mistakes. I think girls are also intimidated by how good some of the players on the team are and they think that they can't do that. But look at the girls who come out for the team their junior year, they are outstanding their senior year."

Foster believes that players new to the sport of hockey will have no trouble learning under the tutelage of the passionate coaches the Worthington Hockey Association has at every level.

"For the most part, all of the girls on the teams are taught so well by our coaches," Foster said. "You don't need to be an excellent skater or even know how to ice skate to join hockey. Our coaching staff will teach you everything about the game because they are passionate about it."

Despite the number of people who came out to the floor hockey event on Thursday, Milbrath knows that the hardest part of recruiting new players at any level will be convincing their parents that hockey is worth the time and money put into it.

"You also have to talk to the parents of these kids because their parents will be the ones getting them equipment, get them to practice and all of that," Milbrath said. "Hockey is a family game, so you have to get everyone involved."

Despite their desire and willingness to continue playing hockey no matter what, Kremer and the rest of her teammates will be more disappointed than anyone if Worthington's girls varsity hockey team is forced to co-op with Windom.

"I would do anything to play hockey, but it would literally break my heart," Kremer said. "I have been playing hockey my whole life and it would be tough knowing that in my junior year I would have to switch all my jerseys and combine with other girls."

However, the Worthington Hockey Association and the varsity team still have two months to piece together a team for the upcoming season.

"The numbers I am seeing out there tonight are awesome," Milbrath said. "The future looks good based on tonight and hopefully that can continue as we do more of these events."