Is Hockey a Women’s Sport? It Sure Is!

Is Hockey a Women's Sport? It Sure Is!

Women’s Ice Hockey

Women’s hockey is a popular sport amongst girls, teenagers, and women. The USA alone has more than 75,000 female hockey players. Women’s teams have been extremely successful, and they’ve had some great teams at the Winter Olympics and much more.

Hockey is a women’s sport. Anyone can play hockey, and the women’s hockey scene is becoming more and more popular. The US women’s ice hockey team is phenomenally successful, and they are currently the reigning Olympic champions. More and more opportunities for female hockey players appear every day.

The following article will take a look at women’s hockey in the United States and elsewhere. We will look at the differences between men’s and women’s hockey and explain which competitions women’s teams play in. I will also look at ways you can support or get into women’s ice hockey.

What Is the Difference Between Men’s and Women’s Hockey?

There isn’t much difference between men’s and women’s ice hockey. The puck, rink, and teams are the same size, and both genders can compete in the Winter Olympics. However, women’s hockey has much less media coverage and financial support than men’s hockey. Because of this, there are not many opportunities for female players to play at higher levels.

If you’d like to watch women’s hockey, check out this video on YouTube by NWHL:

Which Rules Are Different?

One significant difference between men’s and women’s hockey is that women must wear full-face cages while playing. Men don’t have to, but full-face masks can be worn if they choose to.

In women’s ice hockey, you can’t make a direct body check. Female players get two-minute minor penalties for this, and they may even get a five-minute major penalty. Many fans state no checking as the main reason they don’t watch women’s hockey. We go into much more detail on this topic in our article covering the aspects of contact in women’s hockey.

Are There Differences Between Men’s and Women’s Hockey Gear?

There is a significant difference between male and female body shapes. For instance, female hips are more rounded, and women’s chest guards need to accommodate their busts. However, women usually also have smaller feet and require smaller, and sometimes lighter, skates. Pelvic protectors for female players have to be female-specific, as the pelvic area is entirely different in women than it is in men.

Many female hockey players wear gear from the men’s range, but in much smaller sizes, such as the junior male range.

What About Girls’ and Teenage Girls’ Hockey Gear?

Girls and young women will have similar body shapes to women, with rounded hips, smaller feet and calves, and a different chest shape. Because of this, the same equipment that older women would wear would work well for the younger girls as well, just at a smaller size. Also, some equipment from a male range may fit well, but avoid anything that fits incorrectly, as this compromises safety.

Are the Salaries Different for Elite Players Depending on Their Gender?

Unfortunately, female hockey players are paid minimally, even at the highest level, as their clubs usually have a meager budget. Some women’s hockey teams run programs that offer players some funds from ticket sales, but not all clubs do this. Also, women’s hockey is not widely watched, so ticket prices are likely to be much lower than men’s hockey ticket prices.

Are There Women’s Pro Teams and Competitions?

While women’s hockey isn’t as widely followed as men’s hockey, there are several pro teams and leagues. Women’s hockey is also recognized as an Olympic Sport, with the USA taking Gold in the last Winter Olympics. As reigning champions, the US team will have a lot of media attention and funding in the 2022 Olympics.

Women’s National Ice Hockey Team

The US Women’s National team has seen significant success, winning Gold or Silver medals in every significant competition, except for one Bronze in 2006. They even beat four-time champions, the Canadian National team, to the Gold in the last Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang.

The US team also has an Under-22s (U22) series for younger players, giving them a stepping stone into professional ice hockey. Youth teams are crucial to developing players, as they allow young people to build a career and invest in a future in the sport they love. Professional competitions in women’s hockey are vital for this reason. There is no option for young women to see ice hockey as a sport they can go elite in with no professional games as financially viable as the NHL.

National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL)

The NWHL started in 2015, and it was the first professional hockey league for women in the States. It even paid its players right from the start, which was another first for women’s hockey. There is also a Junior National Women’s Hockey League (JR NWHL), created to support girls’ hockey and provide younger players with a future in hockey.

Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL)

Canada’s CWHL sadly ceased operations in 2019. The reasons stated for this were an ‘unsustainable economic model,’ despite excellent success in the game itself. Players and fans put together the CWHL, and it is unfortunate to see this community-made organization disappear.

The loss of the CWHL shows how vital it is to support women’s hockey in any way you can.

The Isobel Cup

Named after Lord Stanley’s daughter (founder of the Stanley Cup in men’s hockey), the Isobel Cup is the annual prize for the NWHL winner. Lady Isobel was one of the first women to play ice hockey, inspiring thousands after her. Since its inaugural year, the NWHL has awarded the Isobel Cup to its winners, tying female hockey players together from the origins of women’s hockey.

Notable Players

Significant players become heroes for those who support women’s hockey, just as with the male players. There isn’t as much room for players to have substantial careers in women’s hockey as men’s, but that hasn’t stopped some women, like the Gold medallists on the 2018 Winter Olympics team.

  • Meghan Duggan: Captain of the US National Women’s team, Meghan Duggan led the United States to victory at the 2018 Winter Olympics, beating the four-time champions (Canada) to the Gold medal. In her first Winter Games as Captain, the US team won Silver. In the Olympics before that, Meghan was on the team, and the United States won Silver that year.
  • Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy: The namesake of the Isobel Cup, Lady Isobel was one of the first women to play ice hockey. It’s not surprising since her father, Lord Stanley, is the namesake of the Stanley Cup. Growing up surrounded by the hockey world, Isobel must have learned to love the game from a very early age. She even inspired her father to create the Stanley Cup.
  • Maddie Rooney: Maddie played in goal during the 2018 Winter Olympics. She was under 22 when she scored Gold against four-time champions, Canada. The US women’s team won the Gold medal on shootouts, which probably had a lot to do with Maddie Rooney’s skills in goal. Maddie is from Minnesota and has a degree in Business Marketing.
  • Cayla Barnes: At just 21, Cayla plays for both the Boston College Eagles and the American National Women’s team, on the U22 roster. Cayla has played hockey since she was young, counting herself as a Lady Ducks (California) alumnus. She’s played for Boston College since 2017 and has just finished her third season with the team.

Women’s Hockey Gear

Significant brands like Bauer and CCM stock high-quality women’s ranges loved and used by elite players and novices alike. However, for adult women, if some parts of your kit come from the male range, that’s acceptable. Many elite players wear male gear for some items.

Nevertheless, make sure everything fits correctly to avoid injury or poor performance. Things like pelvic protectors must be female-specific due to physical differences between the genders. You may also feel better protected in female-specific hip pads and chest guards.

When you’re looking for some great women’s hockey kit, don’t forget your socks! We recommend the UPHILLSPORT Hockey Socks from They’re pro-anti-cut to protect your feet and legs from skate cuts, and they come in kids’ and adult sizes.

Girls’ Hockey Gear

When you’re shopping for girls’ hockey gear in a male or unisex range, try out much smaller sizes than you think you need. For example, you can size ice skates by shoe size. The regular advice is one size down from the shoe size, but this is different for girls. If you’re buying girls’ skates, start three sizes down from her shoe size.

If you have a daughter, niece, or little sister who is a massive hockey fan, I recommend this Hockey Infinity Bracelet from It comes in black or white and makes an excellent gift for a hockey girl. It’s also fully adjustable, so you won’t need to worry about getting the right size.

Girls’ and Women’s Hockey

More than 75,000 females play girls’ and women’s hockey across the USA and more than 200,000 worldwide. Women’s hockey is growing all the time, and more and more professional teams play at a high level. The collegiate women’s hockey scene is booming, with sports scholarships offered to boot.

If you’d like to find out how long a typical women’s hockey game is, make sure to read our article on the subject.

How Do I Get Into Girls’ or Women’s Hockey?

The first step is to contact your local ice rink and find out if they offer ‘try ice hockey’ or ‘start playing ice hockey’ days. These open days allow you or your kids’ (depending on the ice rink) to try ice hockey without spending any money. You will even get a free kit and skates for the day, although this may differ at your local ice rink.

If you’re more interested in being a spectator, you can follow your local team on social media and sign up for their newsletters and podcasts. We also recommend following the US National team, or your own national team if there is one.

Keep an eye on their feeds for news of games you can go to or watch on TV or online. Some teams may run Livestreams of their matches or have a Livestream of their training. These streams are beneficial for beginners, especially kids, who will soon find a player they want to look up to.

You can also watch women’s ice hockey at the Winter Olympics. The Winter Olympics runs every four years, two years after the Summer Games. Both the USA and Canada have women’s ice hockey teams at the Olympics, and they are well worth watching. If the Olympics are near you or are being held somewhere you’d love to go, consider taking that once in a lifetime holiday.

How Do I Get Kitted Out for Girls’ or Women’s Hockey?

Many ice rinks offer free trial days where you can borrow a kit, but you will have to rent or buy equipment if you decide to continue with the sport. There usually is nothing wrong with second-hand gear, and you could consider sharing a kit with another woman or girl of a similar size if you’re likely to play at different times.

How Can I Support Girls’ or Women’s Hockey?

Playing, watching, and following the sport on social media are excellent ways to support the women’s hockey scene. If you can, go to pro matches as much as possible, as the more tickets these games sell, the more opportunities there will be for female players to go pro.

Try to catch televised games or live-streams whenever possible. Women’s hockey isn’t as well televised as men’s, and the more spectators their games get, the more likely they are to be shown on TV.

You can support a local team by watching training sessions, helping out with fundraising, and sharing their posts on social media.

One of the best ways to support women’s ice hockey is to play and take your kids to play.

Can Men and Women Play Together?

While women can play on men’s teams, the rules are different the other way round. Men cannot play on women’s teams, officially, and even kids’ teams are divided into girls and boys. Usually, this has something to do with size and weight and can help to prevent injury. However, there’s no reason not to play in a mixed group in private games with friends and family.

Do Women Play Hockey in the UK?

Although it isn’t as popular as it is in the United States and Canada, the British enjoy ice hockey. However, some fantastic figure skaters come from Britain, and the UK has won Gold for figure skating on numerous occasions. They have also had some success in short track speed skating.

In the last Olympics, the UK did not send a women’s ice hockey team. Britain is not known for its ice hockey success, although the men’s team won Bronze in 1924 and Gold in 1936.

Britain has ten pro hockey teams, and over 8000 registered hockey players (across both genders).

Women’s National Ice Hockey League (WNIHL)

Women in England compete across three tiers: Elite, Premier, and Division 1 in the WNIHL. Teams come from senior and U16 levels, but the U16 and Division 1 competitions are split into North and South Sections. In the last competition, 7 - 9 U16 teams registered, along with over 30 Senior teams.

Which Other Countries Play Ice Hockey?

Aside from the USA and Canada, several other countries have strong ice hockey teams. These countries include:

  • Russia
  • Finland
  • Switzerland
  • Japan
  • Sweden
  • Czech Republic

These countries have been successful in both men’s and women’s ice hockey, although Japan’s men’s team is currently much further down the rankings than its women’s team. Other countries hold similar positions in both men’s and women’s hockey.

What Is Field Hockey?

The game of field hockey is much more popular in the UK than ice hockey. However, it’s referred to only as ‘hockey’, with ice hockey being less common and thus called by its full name in Britain. Make sure to read our article looking into which is older: field hockey or ice hockey?

Contrary to its name, field hockey is usually played on artificial turf (some brands are specifically designed for field hockey, like TigerTurf) or concrete.

Men initially played field hockey, but it is now much more popular amongst women. It is one of the sports offered exclusively to girls in most high schools, alongside netball. The boys play football and rugby instead. Both genders play tennis and basketball. A popular summer sport in the UK is badminton, which is similar to tennis but played with a shuttlecock instead of a ball. It is sometimes also called the ‘birdie’.

If you’d like to try field hockey (it’s a great alternative if you can’t get on the ice), we recommend this STX Field Hockey Stick from It has a maxi toe and is 10% carbon fiber. Plus, it comes in an attractive black and bright blue design. Now all you need is a ball and some mates to play with!

Final Thoughts

This article looked at women’s ice hockey, including the American National team’s success, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s demise, and the link between the Stanley Cup and the Isobel Cup. We also looked at the differences between men’s and women’s hockey and women’s hockey gear.

The article also included information about supporting women’s and girls’ ice hockey and which equipment to get. Finally, we looked at ice hockey in other countries, like the UK, and field hockey, which is popular in the UK.