The irresistible rise of women's hockey


The women's ice hockey is moving in the right direction thanks to the increase in the number of licensed and high level, symbolized by the entry of the team of France in the Top 10 world. State of the art of a linear progression since ten years.

"Hockey is no longer just a boys' sport." Grégory Tarlé, coach of France's women's hockey team since 2013, after being an assistant coach for 4 years, has been involved in this discipline for a long time and can draw this conclusion. He saw the girls arrive more and more in the rinks, slip on the skates and grab the crosier, the game grow and the level increase until the qualification of the Blue, last April. It was for the Elite World Championship, and for the first time in its history. Marion Allemoz, current captain of the Tricolores with more than 200 selections on the clock, is among those who opened the way. "I started playing hockey at the age of 4 at the Chambéry club, because I followed my two big brothers and my two big sisters who played there." This sport, which was originally a family activity, has become a passion. "I like sliding, the side game collective, speed," she says.

An overall evolution

It was in 1993. However, Luc Tardif, president of the French Federation of Ice Hockey (FFHG) since 2006, sees the emergence of women's hockey in France in the early 2000s, thanks to a change in mentality of salvation. which allowed girls to enter with better conditions in a sport. "It started with football, when the Olympique Lyonnais began to put professional means at the disposal of the players, he believes. Then the PSG imitated it and also had good results. Other sports have followed, too. " Originally from Canada, where women's hockey is well structured, Luc Tardif did not need to be convinced to open this discipline to young girls. "It really got serious with the creation of the new federation in 2006. One of the challenges of ice hockey is that there are not enough slots. In France, there are only 150 ice rinks shared with the public, schools and all other disciplines on ice. Clubs said they did not have enough hours to welcome the girls. For some, it was nice excuses, but for others, a reality. Thus, we have put in place regulations that promote gender diversity."

Promote diversity

All young hockey players have played alongside club boys, sometimes in the younger age group, to stay in a team for as long as possible. For example, Marion Allemoz played mixed up until she was 18 in her club at the Olympic Stadium in Chambéry ice hockey. "In Europe, diversity has become essential to us, because we can not compose exclusively female championships," says Grégory Tarlé, who has also trained teams of this type. "They play with boys until they are 17, before the morphological and physical differences are too big." This way of working has advantages. "The girls are doing a lot of work to win their place on the team. It forges their character, their tenacity, "said the coach of the team of France, which notes another positive development. "They start hockey more and more early, at 5-6 years old like little boys. Before, with a few exceptions, girls started later and this created a shift in categories." As hockey players go on skates earlier, their technical skills improve. "The high-level progresses with the development of the practice for all," says Grégory Tarlé.

Consolidate women's hockey

In addition to the efforts made by clubs in recent years to improve the reception of little girls, the pole France was born in Chambéry. "It allowed the players to develop, to have daily training," says Marion Allemoz, who entered it from its inception in 2008. The staff of the French team provides intensive training to girls who can be hosted on site. An extra step that allowed many hockey players to be spotted by members of Canada's team and to go overseas. Marion Allemoz's career is once again an example: she played four years at the Carabins University Montreal while continuing her studies, before wearing the jersey for the Montreal Canadiens for two years. Since the beginning of the season, the captain of Les Bleues has returned to Europe, but in Sweden, at Modo Hockey, "a very interesting women's championship", she confides. "The hard core of the France team plays in Sweden, Switzerland, Germany," adds Luc Tardif.

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To allow the players to reach the level that leads to these good championships, we must avoid losing them between 16 and 18 years, between the end of the mix and the beginning of the league seniors. And organizing regrouping courses in summer is not enough. "Recently, we are a team from France U16," explains Luc Tardif. "For three or four years, the France U17 Women's Team has been playing in the boys' championship. And they are not last!" Highlighting the training of supervisors is part of the projects to consolidate women's hockey, as is the move from the France division of Chambéry to Cergy-Pontoise," to take advantage of the proximity of the federation for better monitoring and better equipment " explains the president of the FFHG. Women are no longer forced to go to Canada or Sweden to pursue their careers as seniors. The women's championship brings together six teams in the south and six in the north and, for three years, is played end to end. However, Luc Tardif confides a little regret. "I would like the big structured clubs of the Magnus League to put the means, like what has been done in football. There, we would pass a course."

Beijing Target 2022

Next April, the France team will defend its chances for the first time in its history, in Finland, at the Elite World Championship which brings together the top ten teams. "They will go there to stay," says Luc Tardif. "But it will not be easy," tempered Grégory Tarlé. And after ? Ahead of another great premiere, the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing! "We have the ability to be part of the ten teams of the next Olympics," said Marion Allemoz. "If there is qualification, we will fart the champagne! "Promises Luc Tardif, adding that it will also be the case for men. In order to win this Grail, "we will financially support the girls to arrive in France team in the best conditions. They are not professional, so it's up to us to compensate, to bring them personalized help so they do not have to stop hockey to live well. " A qualification of Bleues at the Games of 2022 would bring a flash of media attention to this discipline, and could even encourage young girls to get started and clubs to receive them well. "The progress of women's hockey is obvious, but there is still some way to go," concludes Luc Tardif.

A more direct, more fluid game

Hockey has long been seen as a men's sport. So, are there really differences between the ways of practicing according to the genres? "There are fewer loads, but it's still physical," says Marion Allemoz. "The game remains fast, technical, tactical". "There are always duels. Defending his territory is what makes the essence of hockey, described for his part Grégory Tarlé. But there is more strategy, the game is more direct, more fluid." Many spectators are aware of the good level. "Since 2008-2009, we are still organizing a senior or young world championship," explains Luc Tardif. "We try to go to places where hockey needs to be developed, and we fill the ice rinks thanks to attractive prices. People are moving and are amazed by the level of play."

Feminine hockey in numbers

At the start of the season, 45 ice hockey clubs participated in the Open House Days for Girls, which has contributed to the increase in the number of licensees in recent years. "They try, they like and they stay," summarizes Luc Tardif. 2,563 players were counted in the 2017-2018 season, an increase of 71.3% from 10 years ago. Seniors make up half of all official practitioners (54.2%). Next, the under-9s are the most numerous with 18.4% of the dismissed, before the young aged 9 to 11 (8.6%). The lowest proportion is girls aged 17 to 20 (2.4%).

Par Leslie Mucret