LINCOLNWOOD -- The Under-14 girls took turns fighting for control of the puck, pushing each other as if they were competing for a spot on a team.
On Saturday, these were just drills. But they were also drills led by one of the most successful coaches in Division I womens ice hockey history and coach of the U.S. Olympic womens team.
Katey Stone, who was named 2014 U.S. womens Olympic hockey coach back in June, led a clinic with Chicago Young Americans girls hockey players at American Heartland Arena on Saturday. Stone, who has the most Division I womens hockey victories among active coaches (378 at Harvard University) ran separate sessions for U14, U16 and U19 girls. Longtime friend Kenny McCudden, the Chicago Wolves skating and skills coach, also helped run the clinic.
For Stone, theres nothing like the game of hockey.
It empowers women, young women, to do something at a highly intense level and be successful at it, Stone said. Its fast, its competitive and its so different than any other game.
For the girls who participated, working with Stone was a tremendous opportunity.
Its fun because she has so much experience. Shes a really great coach and really an inspiration, said 14-year-old Shea Nelson of Evanston. Its fun to be on the ice with someone with that much history of hockey. It makes the whole game that much better.
Amelia Murray, 14, of Crystal Lake, said it was an enjoyable day.
She just tried to get us to have fun, said Murray, who switched to hockey from figure skating after her dad told her she was too fast for the latter. We were working on skills, but she was making sure we had fun at the same time. We also get to know what we need to know for college. CYA, all these teams, their goal is to get you into a great college.
Stone grew up at a time when girls playing hockey was truly a rarity. She began playing when she was three, when she and her older brothers would get on the pond in front of her house in Connecticut. She was the only girl playing at the squirt level, with only a few more playing at the bantam level. But being one of few girls playing didnt stop Stone.
Some came after you a little bit, but it was good for me, Stone said. I held my own and learned a lot of lessons. The prep school where my dad worked had a girls team, and from that point on I played.
Flash-forward to today, when these girls have so many more opportunities to play. There were more than 100 girls combined at Saturdays clinic, and Stone said the lessons they learn from playing are immeasurable.
We never went overnight to a tournament; it was always local, just in and out. For these kids, that transition going to college now is so much easier, she said. They play a ton of games, travel a lot and learn how to manage everything else in their life, which is critical.
Still, a few more lessons from Stone didnt hurt.
She taught us that, if you make a bad play, just get over it and make up for it. Dont sweat it, Nelson said. A lot of times in games if I make a bad play, I just keep focusing on it the rest of the game. Its good to just let go.
Hockey paved a great path for Stone I couldnt be luckier, honestly, she said. Now hockey is giving another generation of girls the tools to succeed, on and off the ice.
One of the biggest things for me is the willingness to prepare. Its one thing to be competitive but how willing are you to really prepare and put yourself in a position to win? Stone said. Thats something that women thrive on, and thats why women in business and everything in life have been so successful. Theyve had great opportunities and theyve made the most of the ones theyve had.