“Michigan Athletics Eyes Women’s Ice Hockey: A Step Towards Gender Equity”

For years, there has been a growing chorus from fans, media, and athletes urging the Michigan athletic department to include women’s ice hockey as a varsity sport.

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Michigan Athletics

On Thursday morning, this advocacy took a significant stride forward, as several members of the University of Michigan Athletics board of regents along with University president Santa Ono formally proposed a feasibility study. This study is seen as the initial step towards establishing the program as Michigan’s 28th varsity sport.

“We are at a pivotal moment,” expressed regent Denise Illitch. “It’s high time for the University of Michigan to introduce a varsity team for its women’s hockey program.”

Illitch, notably the daughter of the late Mike Ilitch, who acquired the Detroit Red Wings in 1982, sees the absence of a women’s hockey program in Michigan as a missed opportunity, particularly evident in the record attendance set by the Professional Women’s Hockey League in Detroit recently.

“There’s a clear gap in the market currently unmet for the people of Michigan Athletics,” she emphasized.

Illitch underscored two key points: Michigan Athletics currently lacks any women’s hockey programs despite boasting seven varsity men’s hockey programs. Additionally, she highlighted the success of Michigan-born players like Kirsten Simms and Cassie Hall, who excel at out-of-state schools. Last week’s NCAA Women’s Frozen Four featured six players from Michigan, further underscoring the state’s talent pool.

These sentiments were echoed by President Ono, who has previously shown support for Michigan’s club women’s hockey team by covering ice-time costs this season and attending games. At the monthly regents meeting, Ono publicly confirmed his request for athletic director Warde Manuel to initiate a feasibility study.

Typically, a feasibility study serves as the initial step towards implementing a varsity sport, examining costs, logistics, benefits, and market factors. While Michigan has yet to conduct one, it’s evident that the university’s leadership is leaning towards exploring this initiative further.

Regent Jordan Acker emphasized the importance of the feasibility study in ensuring Michigan doesn’t miss the opportunity to provide elite female hockey players with a homegrown option.

As the university awaits Manuel’s response, the focus remains on potential challenges such as facility expansion, scheduling logistics, and fan engagement. Nevertheless, the board of regents is resolute in their commitment to exploring the possibility of introducing a women’s hockey program at Michigan.

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