This past Saturday, the Onalaska Omni Center hosted young girls ages 4-14 at the Grow Girls Hockey event. At 11 am, the girls learned how to skate, and at 1 pm they learned the basics of hockey.
The Onalaska girls hockey team along with former stand-out athletes from the area were on hand to help run this event. Former West Salem athlete and Wisconsin Badger Lauren Meuer found enjoyment teaching these young girls the sport she loves.
" I just want kids to have fun," Meuer said. " I think if they have fun on the ice, they're going to want to come back again and put the skates back on."
This has been the case, as numbers increased in girls hockey over the past few years.
" When I look at numbers at Tornado Youth Hockey, we doubled the amount of girls in youth hockey in just one year by having the two events before last season," Teresa Lee, Girls Representative For Tornado Youth Hockey, said.
Along with Meuer, Former West Salem Graduate Jamie Weilandt helped run this event. Weilandt did not have these same opportunities growing up.
" Growing up I was one of the only girls on an all boys team," Weilandt said. " I played with all boys, and I didn't get the chance to play with girls until high school."
" Being able to come back and see so many young girls playing and out on skates today has been pretty amazing because when I was growing up there was only a couple girls in the area I knew that skated," Meuer added.
In addition, the USA Women's Hockey team won the Gold Medal at the Olympics this year which in turn has increased awareness of the sport. Many of the young girls were wearing USA hockey jerseys at this event.
" That's going to do amazing things for youth girls hockey in this country," Lee said. " When they could see those girls winning, that was so cool. It will definitely help bring up the numbers because all younger girls saw that and went, ' I want to do that too, I want to be there too.'"