Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Breaking barriers: Women’s hockey club emerges at UA

Courtesy of Jacob Lucas/Alabama Women’s Hockey
Alabama women’s hockey team in a huddle before a game.

In a groundbreaking move for women athletics, The University of Alabama has announced the start of the women’s hockey sports club, the seventh team to join the women’s College Hockey South division. Spearheaded by a group of passionate and dedicated individuals, the club aims to provide female athletes with an opportunity to pursue their love for hockey and foster a more inclusive athletic community at the University.  

Junior Keara Duffany and sophomore Morgan Grzybowski are two of the girls who worked together to start the program at the Capstone. Driven by a shared love for hockey, they began this journey wanting to create a platform for female athletes and to be able to compete at the collegiate level.  

“We kind of got it started. At first it was just an idea … then it kind of became a real thing,” Grzybowski said.  

Determined to make this team successful, they came together to lay the foundation for what would soon become a thriving and vibrant community of female hockey players.  

The women’s hockey general manager, Savannah Prefontaine, reflected on the initial stages of recruitment for the team and how it got started.  

“I created a post, it was back in May,” Prefontaine said. “It was just, ‘Are you interested in playing hockey at The University of Alabama?’ And we got like 40 responses from it, from girls that have played before and girls that haven’t.”  

The program, which was founded in December 2023, had its first game against Alabama’s rivals, the Auburn Tigers, in late January. And the athletes played their first game without their own uniforms.  

In a display of unity and support, the University of Alabama women’s hockey team faced a challenge head-on as the team prepared for its first game without official jerseys. The men’s league generously offered its practice jerseys, allowing the women’s team to take the ice with pride. Despite the absence of official attire, the women’s team improvised by taping its numbers on the back of the jerseys, highlighting the team’s commitment to the sport.  

“They [the jerseys] just didn’t come in on time, so we were scrambling, and we were like ‘Was there anything you guys could do?’ and they had 13 jerseys so we could only dress 13 girls.” Duffany said. And yeah, we used hockey tape to tape on our numbers.”  

Despite having to borrow jerseys, the two-game weekend series was a successful start for Alabama as the team beat Auburn 20-0 in the first game and 18-1 in the second. 

“I think it just shows how, like, strong we are,” Duffany said. “Like we practiced two times, they’ve been a team since 2021, even after our first practice, I knew we were going to be good, but like, I didn’t expect to put up 20 on them.”  

As for the coaching staff, the team has four coaches, and all four play for the men’s club team at Alabama. Embarking on a new chapter in his athletic journey, head coach Cal Mansfield reflected on the significance of his role within The University of Alabama’s women’s hockey team.  

“I’ve never coached before,” Mansfield said. “But to not just be a part of a team at Alabama, but also coach for Alabama means a lot.”  

Looking ahead to the future of the program, Duffany expressed unwavering optimism and confidence in the team’s potential. 

“I think it looks great,” Duffany said on the future of the program. “I’m honestly, like, so confident that I think we could win playoffs next year.”  

For its practices, the team can only practice once every other week because of the transportation to the ice rink. Since Tuscaloosa does not have a community ice rink and the University has not built one, the team travels to Pelham, Alabama, which is roughly an hour away. But if they can build a rink in Tuscaloosa, it would change everything.  

“If we got a rink, anywhere within 10-15 minutes of Tuscaloosa that wasn’t affiliated with the University, it wouldn’t take the University long to say, ‘We want a rink we’re affiliated with,’” Mansfield said. “I think once we get a rink here and all three men’s teams and the women’s team can play at that one rink and we can have all the seating we want, it’s going to be an absolute great thing for the school.” 

Reflecting on her involvement with the league’s playoffs the previous year, Duffany recounts a moment of encouragement from Kyle Knell, the CHS commissioner, and how it fuels her optimism for the team’s future.  

“I went and helped with the playoffs this past year, and the commissioner of the league, like brought the trophy over and he goes, ‘This is your guy’s next year,’” Duffany said. “So, I think that has something to say, that after two practices and only two, like if people are pulling for us this much and we’ve gotten so much support that I feel like it can really go up from here.”

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