WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WKBW) — For 11-year-old Laela Taher, ice hockey is her passion.
"I love the sport. It makes me feel really good when I put on my skates," Taher said. She continued, "I like the rush of energy when you're coming down the ice on a break away."
On Tuesday night she practiced with both the boys and the girls teams through Southtowns Stars at Leisure Rink in West Seneca. Luci Bowen is her teammate.
"It's just my favorite sport," she said. Luci hopes to be a Buffalo Beaut when she grows up.
"It doesn't matter who you are, you can play if you want to. you can play any sport if you want to," Luci said. Her dad, Jim, is the Director of Girls Hockey for the organization.
"We got three teams right now. We're looking to expand to five, maybe more," he said. Bowen continued, "I'm seeing more girls do more things whether it be hockey, other sports."
There's some data to support this trend. According to this ESPN article, girls youth ice hockey participation rose almost 5% from 2018-2019.
"We're just seeing that growth and with that interest we're adding those girls teams into the league to continue to give a home to those girls players," Rich Vittoria said. He's a director with Southtowns Stars and said about 60 girls make up the 500 or so who play for the organization.
"It's great to be competitive and know that you ca still do all the same stuff that the boys are doing. But ice hockey is great. Laela has a lot of other girls that play with her and they all enjoy the sport. The only thing I would say is the smell of hockey equipment. That's the only negative," Laela's mom, Alissa Osinski, said.