Women's hockey All-Star Weekend has message for Nashville girls players: 'You need persistence' – The Tennessean


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National Women’s Hockey League All-Star Katie Burt practiced Friday with the Predators. She got matched up with 6-foot-6 Brian Boyle.
Tommy Deas, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee

National Women’s Hockey League players and officials faced off with Nashville girls who love the sport on Saturday morning at Ford Ice Center.

The league’s All-Star Weekend began with the Play Like a Girl Leadership Summit. 

“When you are breaking new barriers, you need persistence to keep going,” NWHL founder and commissioner Dani Rylan told girls and their parents at the event. “That forward momentum is so important.” 

National Women’s Hockey League Founder Dani Rylan, NWHL Deputy Commissioner Hayley Moore, and Bauer Hockey VP of Marketing Mary-Kay Messier speak to girls at Play Like a Girl Leadership Summit on Saturday. (Photo: Sandy Mazza)

The league, in its fourth season, will play its 2019 All-Star game shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday at Bridgestone Arena, after the Predators host the St. Louis Blues.

Two-time Olympic medalist Lee Stecklein, who won gold with Team USA last year, said she was thrilled to help up-and-coming athletes because she feels lucky to have had strong mentors when she was young. 

“Sports are incredible,” Stecklein said. “You make lots of friendships and can get technically better each day. In the end, it’s about how you’re getting there — that hard work, work ethic, ability to take criticism, and being able to self-evaluate.”

Stecklein will be a captain for the All-Star game. Some of her fellow team members also spoke with young players on Saturday. 

“Hockey has really helped me to be confident,” said Blake Bolden, defenseman for the Buffalo Beauts. “Love what you’re doing and don’t get caught up in the pressure of sports or school. Have fun.”

For the weekend, the league partnered with the Predators and the nonprofit Play Like A Girl, which encourages girls — who drop out of sports at twice the rate boys do at age 14 — to stay in sports. 

“Approach every opportunity as if you deserve it. Because you do,” NWHL deputy commissioner Hayley Moore said. “If you choose to be a leader, you need to learn what the people around you need and want, and see the value in every person.”

Speakers emphasized that persistence, hard work, passion and focus are hard to maintain. The summit was followed by a street hockey clinic and All-Star skills challenge.

“Some days will be tough and some days there is self-doubt,” Rylan said. “Surround yourself with people who believe in you, your family or your team.”

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EYE ON ATTENDANCE: Could all-star game in Nashville set U.S. women’s pro hockey attendance record on Sunday?

 

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