This is an op-ed written by Allison Fajans-Turner, Vanessa Fajans-Turner and Aubryn Sidle. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit op-eds, please send them to Matt Butler at

For the first time in 25 years, Ithaca High School is not offering an ice hockey team for girls. As students who helped found IHS’ groundbreaking 1998-1999 team, we urge the school district to reinstate the girls’ varsity team without delay. 

Time is of the essence: ICSD must announce its reactivation of the girls high school hockey team as soon as possible. Doing so is critical for securing the team’s season next year and will positively signal to players, partners, and fellow high school teams to factor in the IHS team as they make their future plans. Hockey has historically been a male-dominated, expensive, and exclusive sport. School-funded teams lower their costs for players, thereby increasing their accessibility and overall inclusivity. 

By canceling this year’s season, Ithaca’s School District is at odds with nationwide trends and gender equity milestones, and undermines its own historic leadership and rich local hockey legacy. Women’s ice hockey continues to be one of the country’s fastest growing sports. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of both Title IX and our local girls hockey program, the Tompkins Girls Hockey Association (TGHA). And when IHS launched its inaugural team 25 years ago, it made history as the first girls high school hockey team in New York State. 

When we founded IHS’ first girls team we campaigned for it using the empowering “GREAT” principles — Girls Really Expect A Team — that we learned from our high school peers in Minnesota. This framing was important. It encouraged us to embrace, not apologize for, expecting the same opportunity to play hockey for our school as our male classmates. The IHS girls team made history by achieving its own state championships and expanding girls access to a male-dominated sport. Still, in many ways, its most powerful legacy was proving that city and school ‘grown-ups’ could reward high school girls for speaking up on their own behalf. 

We recognize that decisions about how to allocate school resources are never easy. Administrators have cited several reasons for canceling this year’s season such as COVID-related and other scheduling-related challenges, both of which have caused participation to dip. Regardless, none of these reasons would have prevented the season from moving forward, nor are they legally sufficient to justify its cancellation.

Ice hockey is an expensive sport with high costs for equipment, ice time, and transportation compared with other sports. High school teams cover these costs and provide equipment, rink rentals, and busing to games lowering participation barriers that many girls and their families face when considering hockey. Expanding access through schools is crucial for further diversifying the sport. Without the high school option, some girls have and will lose access to playing.

Because there are fewer girls teams, game and practice schedules have required more flexibility. Distances and driving times are longer between participating schools. This limits scheduling for many games to weekends, rather than weeknights, as is often an option for boys. This and other logistical hurdles have always required annual scheduling coordination and adjustments between local and regional girls hockey programs, IHS’ Athletic Director, and its varsity team coach.

This year, coordination and planning fell short of what was needed to ensure a successful season. Of all the unfortunate outcomes of this situation — among them the fact that girl high school seniors are missing the chance to play their final scholastic season — perhaps the most unfortunate is the way it has undermined the GREAT spirit with which we started this program. 25 years ago, our coaches and mentors had to reassure us that girls really could expect a team. That we were entitled to one, both in fairness and by law with Title IX. It’s bad to cancel the IHS’ girls hockey program for fixable reasons. It’s GREAT to do whatever we can to remind girls that they really should feel entitled to and expect a team of their own. It’s both their right, and the right thing to do in a District that values gender equity. We look forward to cheering for the I.H.S. girls next season when they again take to the ice.

If you are interested in helping, please sign this letter to ICSD requesting that they reactivate the team.

Allison, Vanessa and Aubryn all attended Ithaca High School and co-led efforts to establish the inaugural high school girls ice hockey team in 1998.