The sport of hockey has continued to increase in popularity as well as participation throughout the triangle and young local players enjoy more and more success as their teams compete all over the continent.
The Junior Hurricanes and other triangle teams have performed extremely well during their travels, even in hockey-centric places like Quebec and Buffalo. In recent years, we have seen homegrown talent be invited to various NHL prospect camps and a few have even been selected in the NHL Entry Draft.
USA Hockey tracks membership levels very closely, especially in the “under 8 years-old” category, because that is the future of the organization and the sport.
Interestingly enough, nationally as well as here in the Carolinas, girls participation in hockey has been growing at a faster rate than boys in recent years.
According to the latest Carolina- USA Hockey member report, from 2011-12 to 2015-16, boys’ total memberships nationally have fallen from 91,199 to 89,353. Over the same time period, girls’ memberships have increased from 16,188 to 18,150.
Here in the Carolinas, boys’ memberships have fallen slightly, from 880 to 852. Girls’ participation has increased from 77 to 98.
There was tremendous growth in the game locally before the time frame listed in the stats above, which has led to the success of the local programs mentioned previously.
But while there has been much success in the boys’ programs, the girls are enjoying their successes as well.
Local talent, Colleen Murphy, who lists Cary, North Carolina as her hometown, recently signed a professional contract to play for the Buffalo Beauts this coming season.
Murphy started playing and honed her game right here in North Carolina. I recently had a chance to interview her and she was kind enough to tell me about her background and answer a few questions.
I began by asking her when she started to play and under what circumstances.
Murphy gives credit to coaches Colin Muldoon, Steve Sabo, and Stan Misthios who were instrumental in her development. She also thanked her parents for all of their support.
She said that she started playing strictly in boy’s leagues and also gives that experience much credit for her development.
My family moved to Cary in 1999 from Melbourne, Florida for my Dad’s work and starting playing when I was 8 years old, almost immediately after the move. All the teams I have played with here in NC have been boys teams and I was the only girl on most to these teams. I didn’t join my first girls only team until I was 13 years old. I loved playing with the boys because of the speed and physicality of the game which played a huge part in my development. I have many special memories about playing in North Carolina that I’d love to share. As a Peewee, I was part of the Impact Northstars program and we had an introductory banquet with then Hurricane at the time, Jesse Boulerice. Jesse made a speech and took a picture with me. I was beyond excited. I still have that picture and I’ve spoken with Jesse a few times since then and joked that I was that curly-haired girl with the glasses that he took a picture with at the Impact banquet (lol). Another special memory is when I made the Team Carolina AAA Bantam team. I’ve always played AA, so making a AAA team was a major accomplishment. Team Carolina was an all-star team based in Charlotte and I remember traveling to Charlotte almost every weekend and staying in my parent’s RV. I always fit in with the boys teams and I had a lot fun with my family and my teammates playing street hockey during tournament weekends, traveling with teammates and best of all, wreaking havoc playing mini-sticks in hotel hallways.
Most serious hockey players, once they reach a certain age, must leave home in order to enhance and maximize their hockey careers. It was no different for Murphy.
Obviously, choosing Northeastern was a major decision for Murphy. Why did she choose this particular school and what are a few of her favorite memories?
After Murphy graduated, she expected that her serious hockey playing days were over but when she returned home, she found a new team to play for.
After Northeastern, I moved back home to Cary to begin my business career. I was familiar with the Carolina Aces because a lot of the girls I knew growing up in NC with were on the team and I had been in contact with them about joining. I knew I still wanted to play hockey and the Aces were the perfect balance of being competitive but not as intense as I was used to. I wanted to make friends, have fun, while still playing somewhat competitively.
The Beauts goalie mentioned above, Kelsey Neumann, also calls North Carolina home now but she grew up and learned the game elsewhere. There is a very detailed article about her posted at Musings of a Hockey Enthusiast. She also has an interesting story which was recently published in Sports Illustrated.
Murphy will continue to play for the Aces, (now called the Lady Hurricanes) when she is not playing for the Beauts.
I will be living in Cary and will be keeping my job in addition to being a professional athlete for the Beauts as I will be commuting up North for games on weekends. The Carolina Aces have recently been affiliated with RYHA’s Junior Hurricanes program and are now known as the Lady Hurricanes. We are very excited to be affiliated with the Hurricanes and hope to grow women’s hockey in the area. Yes! I will be playing for the Lady Hurricanes as well as the Beauts. The Beauts will have my priority but there are games and tournaments that I will be able to play in with the Lady Hurricanes. It is critical for me to get as much ice time as possible. My teammates on the Lady Hurricanes mean a lot to me and we’ve worked hard the past 2 years to develop the team, so I’d love to be able play and help in any way to continue to grow the program.
It is always interesting to learn why a player chooses to play the position they play. Murphy has always played defense.
Finally, I asked her what the highlights of her career were so far and if she could share any humorous moments.
Indeed, hopefully she will not score on Neumann again anytime soon, except in practice!
I was invited to watch the Aces play last year and the game I watched was very intense and was an excellent match. They won that game against Chesapeake. If you have the opportunity to watch the newly named, “Lady Hurricanes” this coming season, I recommend you go and watch them. You just might see a couple of professionals out there playing at the Cary or Garner rinks, if they are not playing an NWHL game at the time.
I would like to thank Colleen for taking the time to answer my questions and wish her the best of luck this season. Also, thank you to my daughter Stephanie for her contributions.
You can follow Colleen on twitter at @cmurphsmurph10 and follow Kelsey Neumann at @lilneumy. Get a Murphy “shirsey” here.