The roots of Belmont’s girls hockey program stretch back to 1993 when three girls, Allison Haley, Kaitlin McGaw and Meredith Stella, attended a school board meeting and told them they were starting a girls hockey team at Belmont High School wanted to.
The girls attempted to start the program in 1992, but they did not have the money to pay for enough on-ice time to get the program off the ground.
Mark Haley, Allison’s father, took the girls to the school committee and presented compelling Title IX arguments as to why they deserved support from the school. They were successful in their request and the school provided them with the financial support they needed to secure enough time on the ice and in 1993 the Belmont girls’ hockey program was launched.
From 1993 to 1995, Belmont Girls Hockey was a club program. They had Ice Age, but they didn’t play against other schools.
“Most of the time it was just girls going out and skating. The key was that we had ice time, but it wasn’t very organized. We didn’t play games or anything like that,” Allison said.
According to Mark, in 1995 Belmont became the first all-girls high school hockey program to become a varsity program.
“Other schools also came in and joined as varsity programs and we’ve never looked back, but Belmont was really considered the first,” Mark said.
Tournament a boost for girls hockey
In the spring of 1995, Mark organized the first-ever tournament in the history of public high school girls’ hockey at Skip Viglirolo’s rink. Four teams competed in the first year. The following year there were seven teams. Mark officiated the tournament every year until 2017, when the tournament had three separate divisions at that point.
“It must be almost too much,” Mark said, laughing.
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Mark said the annual tournament is critical in growing girls playing high school public hockey.
“It was huge for the public schools because suddenly it was recognition, and we got media coverage. The Globe’s Bob Holmes was beginning to recognize girl shows, and I worked with him to give him names of people he would make ‘all-scholastic.’ He was very helpful in getting it off the ground,” said Mark.
With increasing recognition, an increased number of interested participants came.
“I want to say, three or four years after we started the program at Belmont, I remember the athletic director came up to me and said, ‘You are now the largest athletic program at Belmont High School.’ We were bigger than the soccer program, we had kids in their 60s playing girls hockey,” Mark said.
Hockey program attracts beginners
Allison said she loved that the program grew with each year she was in high school and she loved that it attracted players of all skill levels.
“One of the things I really enjoyed about the program was that a couple of the girls that came out had never skated before. Unlike a lot of high school sports where people have been playing since they were kids, this was unique in that I would say the majority of the team was new if not rookies,” Allison said.
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Being a part of Belmont High School’s original girls’ hockey program has had a profound impact on Allison and her teammates.
“The friendships that were made. These are friends I have for life. I’m still in touch with a lot of the girls,” Allison said. “Being a student and an athlete, at both the high school and college levels, definitely defined who I am. Personally, I’ve found that it makes me more focused,” Allison said.
A lifelong love of ice hockey
Allison went on to play college hockey at the University of Maine. She currently lives and works in the Washington, DC area, where she still plays hockey in an adult league. She said she’s noticed the growth of women’s hockey throughout her hockey career.
“As women’s hockey grows, the level of the game goes up because there are now ex-college players and ex-Olympians, so even in the adult leagues the level of play is really going up, which is fun,” Allison said.
The continued growth of women’s hockey worldwide is exciting, and Belmont High School’s girls’ hockey roots will always hold a special place in women’s hockey history.
Owen Gund studies journalism at Boston University and reports for a collaboration between the Belmont-Citizen Herald, The Watertown Tab and the Boston University News Service. Tina M. McDuffie, a professor at Boston University, is leading the program and working with Wicked Local’s senior multimedia journalist Joanna Tzouvelis.