HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — In Colorado, girls ice hockey is gaining ground.
On Sunday at the South Suburban Sports Complex in Highlands Ranch, players celebrated a milestone in their journey to grow the game at the first-ever Girls High School Hockey State Championship.
The Castle View Sabercats took home the state title 3-0 against the Chatfield Chargers.
As soon as Emily Levesque could walk, her feet were in skates.
“My dad’s from Canada, so it's kind of just a gimme,” Levesque said.
But for Levesque - who is now a junior at Arapahoe High School - and many other girls in Colorado, growing up playing ice hockey didn't come without its growing pains.
“I grew up playing boys hockey, so I’ve always been on the ice with a whole bunch of smelly dudes,” Levesque laughed.
That’s because girls ice hockey isn’t recognized by the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) as a sanctioned sport.
Sam Addler, whose daughter has been playing ice hockey since she was in second grade, moved to Colorado from Minnesota six years ago.
“We were very surprised that it seemed to not be as big as some other places,” Addler said, referring to the lack of girl’s teams in Colorado.
Minnesota became the first state in the U.S. to sanction girls ice hockey as a high school sport. That was back in 1994.
But girls in Colorado are growing the game, working to see the sport recognized at a higher level.
“It’ll be great to have that recognition from CHSAA and make this a school sport officially,” Levesque said.
On Super Bowl Sunday, South Suburban Sports Complex hosted the first-ever Colorado Girls High School Hockey State Championship. Two Colorado Prep Hockey League (CPHL) teams, the Chatfield Chargers and the Castle View Lady Sabercats showed off their skills on the rink.
Tonight’s championship, breaking the ice for future generations of girls.
“I feel like there's a bunch of little girls out there who feel a little bit more empowered that they'll have space for them. Like my sister, she's going to be coming up and playing soon,” Levesque said.
For some more background, during the 2020-21 season in Colorado, unified bowling, girls wresting and boys volleyball became sanctioned sports by CHSAA.
Each went through a rigorous process, which required a pilot season.
They were the first sports to be added since the late 1990s.