Blaine, Minn. (November 6, 2018) — Back in 1993, it was a pioneering event in female ice sports in Minnesota. This year, the All-American Girls Hockey Tournament, will celebrate is 26th anniversary November 16-18 at the Schwan Super Rink on the campus of the National Sports Center (NSC) in Blaine, Minn.
Sixty-four youth girls’ teams will participate in this year’s tournament, with teams representing Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Manitoba. Champions will be crowned in nine different divisions: 10A, 10B (American and National), 12A (American and National), 12B (American and National), and 15A (American and National).
All-American Hockey Tournament history:
From its inaugural year, the All-American Tournament has been a pioneering event for female hockey. The original tournament was an eight-team collegiate tournament. Northeastern collegiate teams made up the bulk of the field and dominated the competition.
The invitation of the powerhouse Northeastern programs like Harvard, New Hampshire, Brown and Colby was done to encourage Midwest universities to establish varsity level women’s hockey programs that could compete at the same level.
“Back then, the college women’s teams in the Midwest were club teams, not varsity programs,” recalls Pete Carlson, Schwan Super Rink Operations and Programs Director. “And the level of play was at a club level. Back then, when the eastern teams rolled into Minnesota, they dominated.
“But things changed quickly when the Minnesota schools established varsity programs.”
When the tournament began, there wasn’t even a recognized women’s national championship tournament. An organization called the American Women’s College Hockey Alliance (AWCHA) ran women’s national championship tournaments from 1998 to 2000. The University of Minnesota won the AWCHA title in 2000. Then the NCAA took over; Minnesota-Duluth was the inaugural NCAA women’s national champion in 2001.
Those two championships validated women’s college hockey in Minnesota. Of course, by then the youth end of the sport had taken off as well. The Minnesota State High School League established a girls’ high school championship in 1995. And the same year, the All-American tournament welcomed its first youth teams.
“We were on a mission to stimulate interest – and growth – in female hockey,” says Carlson. “Back when the tournament began we were ahead of the curve. But it was important to take a leadership position. Now, the youth players in the tournament have never known a time when there weren’t division I and III women’s hockey teams at nearly every college in Minnesota. But when we started, those teams did not exist.”