By Alex Kushel
Sun Sentinel Correspondent
Sep 02, 2021 4:34 PM
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The Palm Beach Skate Zone in Lake Worth has continued to support the development of girls’ and women’s hockey by providing opportunities for beginners to learn the game and experienced players to improve their skills on the ice.
The girls’ and women’s hockey clinics are open to players of all ages on Sunday mornings at the facility, 8125 Lake Worth Road. The clinics have featured participants ages 5 to 65. It’s sponsored by a grant from the Florida Panthers, which has promoted inclusion and diversity with its Hockey Is For Everyone initiatives.
Valerie Mathieu, president and founder of the Chariots of Love and Chariots on Ice charities, started to play hockey at age 48 for the first time and she has developed a passion for the game during the last decade. She has worked on her skating and increased her skills.
“I am proud to say I play ice hockey and have gained so many wonderful friends through this outlet,” Mathieu said. “It’s a healthy, energetic and cool way to enjoy a sport and camaraderie unlike any other.”
The Florida Women’s Hockey League also has been a showcase for hockey players with five All-Women tournaments during the fall and winter. The league runs across the state with participating players and teams from several areas, including Tampa, Fort Myers, Estero, Brandon, Manatee, Sarasota, Central Florida and Fort Lauderdale.
The first tournament of the fall will take place at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex from Sept. 10 to 12. Others include Florida Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs from Oct. 29 to 31, Palm Beach Skate Zone from Nov. 12 to 14, Clearwater Ice Arena from Jan. 7-9 and Hertz Arena in Estero from Feb. 4-6.
Karen Ota-O’Brien serves as the president of the Florida Women’s Hockey League. She noted the Lucky Pucks from South Florida are represented and feature the 40+ National Team, C, Recreational and Novice Division. The Lucky Pucks have traveled in previous years to out-of-state tournaments, including Nashville and Las Vegas. They also hold the Girls Night Out Hockey League on Monday nights for players of all levels at The Rink on the Beach in Pompano Beach.
“We are really excited to add the Novice Division for the first time this year,” Ota-O’Brien said. “It’s a great opportunity for beginners to enjoy the game.”
The novice players participate in the Beginners Hockey League at the Palm Beach Skate Zone. The Lucky Pucks teams also skate and play at the Florida Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs and The Rink on the Beach in Pompano Beach.
The Palm Beach Skate Zone is also host to the Florida Panthers Learn to Play program in which new participants receive full hockey gear and professional training. The Learn to Play program is run in conjunction with the NHL, NHLPA and USA Hockey for boys and girls ages 5 to 9 and is designed to reduce cost barriers to ice hockey participation. The registrants are all first-time ice hockey participants and receive six weeks of instruction. The full set of hockey equipment is provided and the participants are able to keep it after the conclusion of the program.