Small Frys program aims to grow girls hockey in Arizona

Jun 7, 2018, 4:15 AM | Updated: Jun 21, 2018, 2:20 pm
(Facebook/Small Frys Hockey)...
(Facebook/Small Frys Hockey)
(Facebook/Small Frys Hockey)

TEMPE, Ariz. – There’s something strange about the scene at Oceanside Ice Arena on this Thursday night. About 50 players line the benches, watching the Zamboni like hungry diners at a buffet.

“Let us out!” they chant in unison as the machine completes its final laps to resurface the ice. “Let us out!”

Like Allen Iverson, I can’t ever remember being so enthusiastic about a practice. Lyndsey Fry is brewing something special here.

The Mesa-born, Chandler-raised, Harvard-educated, Olympic silver medalist for Team USA is the ambassador of the Small Frys Hockey Program, a development-based program for girls ages 6-12 that is sponsored by the Coyotes, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association through the league’s industry growth fund.

The 20-week program, which began in April and ends in August, is the only development-based program for girls that is sponsored by an NHL team. It is divided into three segments, or strides.

The first teaches individual skills such as skating, stick-handling and shooting. The second teaches team and competitive skills such as passing and body contact (Fry loves this one). The final segment reviews the first two segments and offers half-ice, 3-on-3 games.

(Facebook/Small Frys Hockey)

“There was nothing like this when I was growing up,” said Fry, 25, who just earned her MBA at ASU. “In a three- to four-year age span, I could count 15 to 20 girls who were playing in my age range. We were scattered around the rinks playing with boys teams because that was really all we had.”

Matt Shott, the Coyotes Director of Amateur Hockey Development, had always dreamed of teaming up with Fry. His younger brother, Trevor, played hockey with Fry’s brother, Wesley, in Chandler. The families have been friends for a long time.

“She always knew one of my big goals when I got this job was to grow girls hockey,” Shott said. “I approached her about our Little Howlers program and told her ‘I want to do a girls one and I think you should be the person to run it.’ She’s perfect for it – raised in Arizona, an Olympian and a perfect role model.

“We need more Lindsey Frys in this world.”

In the past five years, Shott said that girls hockey in Arizona has grown by 150 percent from 301 girls in 2012-13 to 757 this year. Fry and Shott want more.

“We’re not at the point where we have leagues yet but the fact that there is this much interest means it has potential,” Shott said. “I’d like to see multiple women’s teams. I’d like to see this form into a Small Frys, a Medium Frys and a Large Frys. I’d like to have it year-round and have different age groups; have it so big that we don’t have 12-year-olds skating with 6-year-olds.”

Fry clearly loves the game. She made it to the biggest stage despite all the hurdles that being born in Arizona created. That love is still her driving force, but Small Frys is also about creating an alternate image of, and an alternate possibility for girls.

“It’s about awareness,” she said. “It shows not just girls, but parents all around the state that this is not just a boys sport and that’s really important to just get them thinking that way. People around Arizona are used to supporting the sports they’re used to seeing so people living 15 minutes from this rink may not even realize that girls hockey is thriving in Arizona.”

Like many of her Small Frys teammates, Camille Christensen, 9, grew up playing with boys. Her older brother, Nolan, plays travel hockey and she wanted to follow in his strides.

“I grew up in Wisconsin and I had a good friend growing up who played hockey and was the first girl on our high school team and she battled cystic fibrosis so girls playing hockey has always had a spot close to my heart,” said Camille’s mom, Mercedes.

“My daughter and a couple others out here have more experience but they all get to see what the future can hold for them. It seems so much more attainable to play in the Olympics when you’ve got an Olympian from Arizona coaching you.”

Getting more girls playing isn’t Fry’s only goal. She wants to develop more women coaches. She already has Grand Canyon head coach Natalie Rossi, ASU captain KC McGinley, Scottsdale product, former Minnesota-Duluth player and current ASU assistant Katie McGovern, and other ASU and GCU players helping out. The Coyotes sponsored the certifications for the coaches who still needed it.

“A lot of these parents – and this is just from the feedback we’re getting – didn’t think their kids liked hockey when they were going through the Little Howlers program,” Fry said. “But when they see them out here with other little girls and with women coaching, they’re not afraid to mess up and use their body. They’re just more confident when they’re around other girls and socially they are having a blast.

“Almost to a fault, they’re talking to each other in the corners when the coaches are trying to explain a drill, so for me, it’s less about the hockey and more about building the female and girls hockey community.”

The pink stick tape and ponytails were probably enough, but Shott wanted to differentiate the Small Frys even more from the boys so the Coyotes supplied them with retro Kachina jerseys and the girls also have the option of replacing all their gear for free to give them their own swag.

“We want to give them their own experience and their own identity but honestly, the Kachina logo is just sick. It’s awesome,” Shott said, laughing. “I think a lot more people like it now because it’s retro. It’s nostalgic.”

The Coyotes have supported girls hockey in other ways like their girls hockey appreciation night. Fry wants to organize even more events like viewing parties to create more opportunities for the girls hockey community to gather.

“We do have opportunities like She Wolves and Lady Coyotes and the development camps that come through but there need to be more and there will be more now with this feeder program,” Fry said. “We have GCU and ASU club teams. Girls can go watch college hockey games and that was unheard of for me when I was growing up. They can stream a game now and watch the NWHL, college hockey or national team games.

“The goal is obviously to have this be all girls with an all-female staff, but we might have the NHL guys out here some time. Maybe we’ll just make them wear ponytails.”

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Musician/saxophonist Boney James performs onstage during An Evening of Jazz at Mable House Barnes A...

Arizona Jazz Fest set to hit High Street for 3 days in late October

High Street in Phoenix will be jumping to tunes come late October, when the Arizona Jazz Festival touches down for a three-day party. 
23 hours ago
(Unsplash Photo)...

Chandler police seeking suspect who lured, sexually assaulted child

Police are looking for a suspect after a child was lured away from a bus stop by a man driving a golf cart and sexually assaulted.
23 hours ago
Antonio Raeann (MCSO Mugshot)...

Glendale woman charged with murder after fatal stabbing of boyfriend

A Glendale woman was arrested on Monday after stabbing her boyfriend multiple times resulting in his death, authorities said.
23 hours ago
(Scottsdale Airport/Facebook Photo)...
SuElen Rivera

Scottsdale Airport to use $5.4M grant to improve capacity issues

Scottsdale Airport will use $5.4 million in federal grant funding to improve its efficiency and capacity, officials announced. 
23 hours ago
The grey 2004 Toyota 4-Runner has a license plate number of "S4A56B." (Peoria Police Department Pho...

Police seek help finding suspect in carjacking, shooting at Target parking lot in Peoria

Police are seeking a suspect after a man was shot and his vehicle was stolen in a Target parking lot in Peoria on Monday, authorities said.
23 hours ago
Sponsored Content by Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.

Sponsored Articles

Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Small Frys program aims to grow girls hockey in Arizona