Combine, Develop & Promote
As the landscape for girls hockey has been changing the mindset in Raleigh, NC has adapted to keep up with the needs of its players. In the Raleigh area, there has always been an interest in girls’ hockey. The area had the RYHA (a precursor of the Junior Hurricanes), Team Carolina then the Lightning and a rejuvenated Junior Hurricanes program 3 years ago, and the Carolina Lady Eagles. While both were girls’ programs, they starkly contrasted each other – one was a local weekday program, the other a regional program that drew from all areas in North Carolina that did not have all-girls teams.
For the 2019-2020 season, the two organizations merged and became the Carolina Jr Hurricanes with the goal of:
- Retention – keeping their players home
- Promotion of their players
- Growing the game
- Building competitive AAA, AA, and A (coed and girls) programs in the southeast
- Long-term relationship building with an NWHL team
The challenges the Hurricanes faced were varied but the largest was losing players to prep schools, travel, costs and lack of local girls teams for gameplay. Compounding those issues is the cost of 50 minutes of ice – over $500 in North Carolina – and the fact that the closest girls’ teams are 4+ hours away.
David Reaugh, the Carolina Hurricanes Hockey Director, did not play ice hockey. He is a former soccer player who was inspired to try and solve at least two of the challenges above along with the help of 3 minor league pro players:
- Marc Genest, who taught players how to skate and work hard (Tim Knoke was a student)
- Dean Whitney, who taught the mental game of hockey
- Jocelyn Langlois, who stayed true to his philosophy of “what is best for the development of the player and the program”
The result of the collaborative efforts was a success. During the tryout process, the Jr. Hurricanes formed 8 full-time teams and 2 part-time U10 and U12 tournament teams. They’ve been able to show that local girls can stay at home with their families and still succeed. David’s daughter Shelby Reaugh is a prime example of this success. Shelby was born in Raleigh, played in Raleigh and signed in Raleigh.
Like many other female hockey players, Shelby’s introduction to hockey came when she was dragged from rink to rink to watch her older brother play. In December 2013 Shelby said “Dad, I want to play ice hockey and I will pay for it” and she did. She started playing hockey at 12 ½ years old at a local rink public program and quickly became hooked. Being the only girl on the team she was only allowed in the team locker room during the coach talk, which made her feel like an outsider. David, Shelby’s father, began reaching out to people to get guidance on how to nurture Shelby’s new love of hockey. Don Schaap, the president of Carolina Lightning at the time, worked on her skating and soon Shelby was playing on the 14U all-girls Lightning team.
Working with some great pro (minor league) coaches over the next few years, like Marc Genest, Dean Whitney (brother of beloved NHL Ray Whitney) and Jocelyn Langlois, Shelby worked harder and harder on and off the ice.
- Year 1 (Carolina Lightning U14) of hockey she never scored a goal,
- Year 2 (Carolina Lightning U16), 1 goal,
- Year 3 (Carolina Lady Eagles U16), 6 goals
- Year 4 (Carolina Lady Eagles U16) over 60 goals and over 100 points in around 50 games (highest U16 point scorer in the southeast).
- Year 5 (Carolina Lady Eagles U19) still a top scorer in the district.
- Year 6 Shelby will be playing Division III hockey for Coach Eliza Kelley at Becker College in Central Massachusetts.
Shelby has used her daily off-ice training and her synthetic ice sheet as a substitute for the ice time girls up north get but is too expensive to have in Raleigh. Shooting 200 pucks a day, working out 4-5 days a week, and playing for multiple teams during any given season was a way to get the development she needed.
Most players from the area who have a goal to skate in college must leave for prep schools or hockey-centric schools for exposure. Local stars Alyssa Gagliardi and Colleen Murphy went from prep school to college hockey and now skate in the NWHL. The Carolina Hurricanes hope to change this exodus by providing an organization that meets the needs of its athletes. For Shelby, the lure of Becker College was its top-50 D3 ranking, a great scholarship offering, and its top-10 Pre-Vet academic program.
With the newly combined program, a strong focus on development and leagues like the National Girls Hockey League (NGHL), the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes hope the advancement of its players will soon be a common occurrence.