***Disclaimer: This is a sports column that represents the sole opinion of the writer.***

“Girls can’t play hockey.”

Says who? USA Hockey started an annual Try Hockey for Free Day for a reason: to grow the great sport of ice hockey. Hockey doesn’t care if you’re a boy or a girl — it hurts the same to lose. If you can skate without harming yourself and others, while also wielding a stick, you can play hockey.

The You Can Play Project encourages diversity as part of its mission to eliminate homophobia in sports. The NHL, NHLPA and Canadian Women’s Hockey League are just three of the project’s partners. If an initiative promoting diversity exists, maybe there should be a group dedicated to gender equality, or some sort of law focused on presenting equal opportunity to both males and females.

There is such a law.

Title IX is a section of the Education Amendments of 1972, which states that no person shall be discriminated against in education programs and activities receiving federal funding based on gender. This includes sports.

In 1972, fewer than 300,000 girls participated in high school varsity sports, according to data gathered by the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education. During the 2010-2011 school year, that number nearly hit 3.2 million. In college athletics, participation grew from fewer than 30,000 to more than 190,000. It’s clear girls can play if participation continues to rise, a fact visible in girls’ hockey.

The 1990-91 season saw 6,336 girls register with USA Hockey. Last season, that number reached 67,230, a 961 percent increase over 23 years. But girls can’t play hockey.

Since its inaugural 2001-02 season, Plattsburgh State women’s hockey built a dynasty. With three NCAA championships, the most recent coming last year, I dare you to tell members of PSUC’s women’s hockey team that girls can’t play hockey. The women consistently finish with winning seasons. The banners lining the walls of the Ronald B Stafford Ice Arena show PSUC hockey dominating through the years, except the women haven’t been around nearly as long as the men. The ECAC West and NCAA banners tell a story of successful Cardinal women’s hockey. But girls can’t play hockey.

The fourth annual International Ice Hockey Federation World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend hit record participation in the U.S. this October. With 147 host cities, the U.S. exceeded its previous mark of 120 to lead all countries in participation. This is a global initiative to grow girls’ hockey from the worldwide governing body for ice hockey. But girls can’t play hockey.

Hilary Knight and Anne Schleper,, U.S. hockey Olympians, skated in a practice with the Anaheim Ducks and Tampa Bay Lighting respectively, as part of the IIHF World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend. Players from the world’s most popular hockey league welcomed the two women. But girls can’t play hockey.

The U.S. hosted hockey gatherings in 35 states that weekend. The weekend celebrated female participation in the sport with support from teams in the NHL, AHL, NCAA, USHL and USA Hockey affiliates. Translation: hockey players supporting hockey players. But girls can’t play hockey.

Title IX has been around for 42 years, yet sexism in sports, like hockey, lives on. It makes me wonder to what lengths females must go in order to be equal in every aspect. There is a weekend dedicated to growing girls’ hockey. Major hockey leagues support this initiative, so why can’t the immature boys and infuriating people do the same?

“Girls can’t play hockey.” Please, check the scoreboard.

Email Jess Huber at jess.huber@cardinalpointsonline.com

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