Kathy McGarrigle has embraced being a trail blazer for girls hockey in the West. The American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) took note.
This week the founder and director of coaches of the Anaheim Lady Ducks received the Joe Burke Award, which honors those individuals who have shown great support and dedication to girls and women’s hockey.
The award was established in 1994, and its namesake was an avid fan of girls and women’s hockey in New England for more than 40 years until his passing in 2017.
“For them to notice someone out West was pretty cool,” McGarrigle said. “They put some thought into it, and that means a lot.”
To say McGarrigle has meant a lot to girls and women’s hockey in California is an understatement. Not only did she lead the charge to begin the Lady Ducks in 1999, but she has continued to coach hockey every season since, primarily focusing on younger age groups.
Building that foundation has helped the LDs grow to 13 travel teams plus two women’s teams. The program has earned eight medals at the USA Hockey Nationals, including two golds and two silvers.
Additionally, the Lady Ducks have helped more than 130 girls advance to NCAA Division I, D III and ACHA club hockey levels.
“She’s put in a lot of work over the past 20-plus years to grow girls hockey, not just in California but across the West,” said Art Trottier, Jr. Ducks president and vice president of The Rinks. “We’ve always embraced girls hockey, and it’s really nice to see her recognized.
“She does a lot behind the scenes that few people know about. Plus, she works full-time and coaches several teams.”
McGarrigle has been a teacher for 30 years and a hockey coach for 23 years. The amount of LDs who have continued their hockey careers in college is one thing she’s proud of, but not the only thing.
“It’s easy to talk about so many girls playing college hockey,” she said. “But they get so much out of the sport that helps them from the time they’re young athletes through when they move into whatever career they end up in.”
The Lady Ducks have been home to California’s premier AAA program for years, but they also field successful AA teams, and there now are four girls Learn to Play programs that count more than 100 participants.
“It’s not only Tier I hockey, we offer something for all girls to pursue hockey to whatever degree they want,” McGarrigle said. “Not every girl is going to be an Olympian.
“Because of our program and others like it, they have the opportunity to keep on playing – whether at Division I, D III or ACHA.”
There has been a trickle down effect on the sport as a whole because of the Lady Ducks’ growth and success. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the LDs, as well as the Jr. Ducks and The Rinks’ in-house program all are USA Hockey Model Associations.
The sport’s governing body in America has taken note in other ways, too.
“Her work with the Lady Ducks is a big reason why we had the Tier I girls Nationals at Great Park Ice last April,” Trottier said, adding the complex will host Tier I boys Nationals this spring and the Tier II Nationals in 2021.
If girls hockey can grow in California as it has, that sends a positive message to other markets, particularly non-traditional ones.
“It’s like throwing a stone into a pond, the effort reverberates across the water,” McGarrigle said. “Maybe an A team starts somewhere because they have a group of girls who want to play.”
McGarrigle lettered in four sports, earned CIF honors and was a National Merit Scholar. That led to playing tennis at USC and competing in the NCAA championships. In addition to her undergraduate degree in Journalism and her California Teaching Credential, she has a Masters in Kinesiology and Sport History from Cal Poly.
It all comes back to creating opportunities for girls to play. Being recognized for that from afar means even more, McGarrigle said.
“It’s really gratifying to be considered by people I didn’t know well,” she said. “Somebody was watching.”