Freshman Olivia Park Selected for National Hockey Camp


Gia Shin, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Though women’s sports have come a long way to bridge the gender gap, in the hockey world, male domination has historically prevented its female counterparts from reaching the same level of success. Despite the glaring gender inequality, Tenafly High School freshman Olivia Park was selected to attend the USA Hockey National 15U Camp, deeming her one of the top goalies within her age group in the nation.

There are several hockey districts within our country; for example, our district encompasses Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. Players are evaluated during tryouts within their respective districts. Often, scouts, disguised as referees, would attend games during the regular season to determine which players would qualify for the national camp. The best 24 goalies born in 2007 were invited to one of these tryouts, and Park was one of them. “If I continue to make this camp next year and the year after that, it’s like the path to go to the Olympics, which is definitely my dream,” Park said. “But it’s just rewarding to be able to make this camp because I was the only goalie chosen from this district and to see that all my work has paid off is really rewarding.”

Park discovered her interest in hockey at around eight years old, when she often saw hockey players while she was learning to figure skate. “My mom wanted to sign my brother up for hockey but then I was like, ‘Oh, I really want to do this too,’” Park said. 

Park now plays as the goalie on the Tenafly hockey team and her girls’ club team. While many hockey players may feel burdened by the goalie position, this extra pressure was what drew Park to become a goalie. “[There are] a lot of eyes on you and the goalie [serves as the] last defense. But if you make a really good save, you help out your team a lot.”

Park believes that the best part about her sport is her team. The girls’ club team practices at the Prudential Center in Newark, which is also the home arena for the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League (NHL). “My girls’ team goes on a lot of tournaments to cities like Boston or we go on plane rides together,” she said. “Just that team bonding experience is really fun and it’s like another family.” Next year, Park will be traveling with her team all over the country—Massachusetts, Minnesota, Connecticut, and Michigan just to name a few—all within eight weeks.

During the winter season, Park plays for both the Tenafly team and her club team, which requires much sacrifice and dedication. “Sometimes, I feel [like I missed out socially] but these sacrifices are for hockey, so I can get over it.” She believes this is a valuable lesson she learned beyond the ice rink: time management and prioritizing what is most important to her. “For me, [playing hockey is] worth the work and time and effort I have to put in.” However, Park does not foresee herself dropping academics for athletics. “It’s kind of sad but…for women’s sports, after college hockey, unless you go to the Olympics, and even if you do that, there isn’t much of a [stable] career path,” she said. “It’s risky to commit all your time and give up academics for hockey…But definitely, there’s been a lot of things we’ve been doing to grow the sport. Even now, there are clinics for young girls where [players] my age can participate [and encourage younger girls].”

There is a clear lack of representation in women’s hockey; even on the Tenafly hockey team, Park is one of two girls on the male-majority team. However, Park shares a close bond with Sophia Crosby (’24), who also plays on the hockey team. “There are things we miss out on because we’re girls on a boys’ team but there are still a lot of different experiences that we build and…we find our own ways to have fun.” Moreover, Park notes that both of the teams she plays for have their own perks and differences. Though boys’ hockey games are faster-paced, “[In the girls’ team,] we spend a lot more time together traveling to different cities and after games, we’d have lunch or dinner, and at hotels, we’d hang out in each other’s rooms,” she said. “At the high school team, we don’t really go to far places like tournaments.” 

Another perk of hockey being a lesser-known sport is that the community is very tight-knit. And it is even more interconnected within the small population of young female hockey players. “At camps, you would meet girls from all over the US and you would definitely see them again because with other sports, it’s not a small community so you don’t really know everyone who plays that sport,” Park said.

In the future, Park hopes that hockey will grow to encourage more female players to pursue their dream sport. “I think hockey itself is a smaller sport than basketball or football, but I really hope that the sport can grow for younger girls,” she said. “It’s heartwarming when I see younger girls play because I was once them at one point.”