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Florida Alliance Pioneering Growth of Girls Hockey in the Sunshine State

By Clara Boudette, 04/04/24, 10:15AM MDT


Florida welcoming the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier I National Championship with open arms.

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. - The 2024 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier I National Championship has arrived in Florida. For the host organization Florida Alliance, it’s an opportunity to show the nation that hockey roots run deep in the Sunshine State.

Jenna Ruedy, a forward on the Florida Alliance 16U girls team from Tampa, had hockey influence from a young age. Her dad, a Minnesota native and lifelong hockey fan, was a Tampa Bay Lightning season ticket holder. Ruedy enrolled in one of the Lightning’s summer hockey camps and was instantly hooked.

However, Ruedy had limited options for girls hockey. Like many girls in the state, she had to play with boys until the Florida Alliance came along.

“It was a huge turning point and brought a lot of girls back to girls hockey,” said Ruedy on joining the Alliance.

The Florida Alliance began in the 2018-19 season with 14U and 16U AA girls programs and expanded to a 19U AA team in 2019. The club received AAA status for the following 2020-21 season.

“It came to light originally when USA Hockey implemented the American Development Model,” explained Stephen Lynch, executive director of the Florida Alliance and head coach of the 16U girls team. “At the time, we had too many AAA programs for our registration. With the Alliance, we’re able to put all our best players together that we have in the state and have them participate together.”

The Florida Alliance aims to provide access to high-level hockey opportunities that are close to home for youth players in Florida who have typically had to leave the state for programs in states like Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Michigan. The organization is also a beacon of hockey for the broader southern region and provides a place to play for girls from Tennessee and the Carolinas.

“You see a lot of girls on college teams that are from Florida and go to prep schools,” said Ruedy. “You’re starting to see girls coming out of the Alliance program, and that’s really exciting.”

One such player, Jordan Ray, a sophomore forward from Viera, Fla., currently plays for Yale University’s Division I women’s hockey team and played her youth hockey with the Florida Alliance.

Florida has recently become a hot spot for hockey talent. NHL stars Jack and Quinn Hughes were born in Orlando, and the U.S. National Junior Team that claimed gold at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship boasted a trio of Florida-grown talent in Gavin Brindley, Seamus Casey, and Jacob Fowler.

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s back-to-back Stanley Cup victories in 2020 and 2021 are a feat that can’t be ignored when looking at the growth of hockey in the Sunshine State.


“A bunch of little kids are going to their games seeing how big it is,” said Anna Lloren, a forward from Lakeland on the Alliance 16U girls team. “They’re showing that we’re in Florida and we can play hockey.”

Lloren has seen the expansion of hockey first-hand in her hometown of Lakeland, Fla., a community east of Tampa, which recently converted a bowling alley into an ice arena.

For the Alliance, the opportunity to host girls Tier I nationals is a chance to showcase the growth of hockey in Florida at the highest level.

“It’s a special week for us, especially as far as we’re coming with girls hockey,” said Lynch. “Right now, we’re one of the fastest-growing affiliates in the country.”

As the host organization, the Alliance received automatic bids for their 14U, 16U, and 19U programs. However, they’re determined to show the country that girls from Florida can compete against the best teams from across the nation.

“We want to be more competitive than we’ve been in previous years,” said Lynch. “I’m just excited for all the girls to be able to play on this stage in their home state.”

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