On Monday, the Washington Capitals announced that former Olympian Haley Skarupa will serve as the team’s Hockey Ambassador. In the newly created position within the organization, Skarupa will aid the development of youth hockey across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
Skarupa is perhaps best known for her role in the 2018 Winter Olympics, helping the U.S. Women’s National Team to their first Olympic gold medal since 1998. She also played in the NWHL for three seasons, one with the Connecticut Whale and two with the Boston Pride.
Currently, Skarupa is taking part in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Associations’ multi-city tournament, the Dream Gap Tour. The PWHPA is a union of around 200 players who opted to sit out of any North American professional league in an effort to push the sport’s stakeholders to establish a single sustainable women’s hockey league. The tour includes three-game round-robin tournaments, a championship game, and youth clinics at each stop.
A Rockville native, Skarupa is no stranger to the local hockey scene. In her youth hockey days, Skarupa played for the Washington Pride, a team in the Junior Women’s Hockey League before heading off to Boston College to play for the Eagles.
In a statement to the Capitals, Skarupa expressed her excitement to take on this new role with the organization:
“I’m extremely excited to join the Capitals organization,” said Skarupa. “I grew up playing hockey in the area, so this opportunity to come back and develop the game around the region is incredibly special. The Capitals have done such an amazing job growing this sport for boys and girls and I’m excited to use my experience and background to continue making a difference in the community and beyond.”
As noted in the press release, data from USA Hockey shows a rapid growth in youth participation in the sport in recent years. According to the data, participation in the region has grown to 22,144 players, coaches, and officials in the past five seasons.
In July, the New York Rangers appointed Amanda Kessel to a similar role within their organization. Kessel is currently the official ambassador to Junior Rangers Girls Hockey, a youth hockey initiative aiming to increase girls’ participation in the sport across the tri-state area.
This is not the first girls’ outreach initiative the Capitals have participated in – last February, the Capitals hosted the United Arab Emirates Women’s National Hockey Team to run a workshop with the American Special Hockey Association. The Capitals developed their relationship with the team after Peter Bondra met Fatima Al Ali while hosting a clinic in Abu Dhabi.
However, this new initiative is perhaps the most significant boost to girls’ youth hockey in the area by the organization, especially given Skarupa’s status as a hometown hero.
As part of her outreach duties, Skarupa will host two free Washington Capitals Girls Hockey Clinics on Saturday, October 5 at MedStar Capitals Iceplex. The clinics are open to female hockey players ages 8-18 as part of the IIHF’s World Girls’ Hockey Weekend.