ROCKFORD – Belvidere North grad and former Colgate University standout Bailey Larson heard her name called in the NWHL Draft in December, but has not gotten to start her professional hockey career as she joined a fight to improve the conditions of women’s professional hockey.
Larson grew up training through the Rockford Park District before having a decorated career at Colgate, making it to the Frozen Four her junior year. The Boston Pride drafted her six months ago, but she has yet to lace up her skates professionally.
“It’s extremely tough,” Larson said in an interview at City Market. “I was really excited about the opportunity to play with Boston. I think it’s important to know we’re taking the right steps in growing the game.”
Growing a game that has lagged behind it when it comes to women’s professional sports in this country. Larson is sacrificing at least a year of her prime hockey-playing days to fight for a better future for female hockey players.
“It’s extremely important,” Larson said. “A lot of professional sports, soccer has been through it, basketball has been through it. It’s time for hockey to go through it. Of course we want a livable wage but we also want our skates sharpened and we want food on the road when we’re playing at away games. It’s just little stuff like that that professional athletes deserve. If this is what it takes, then this is what it takes.”
About 175 players formed a Player’s Association agreeing not to play in a North American league this year until they could get one adequate league. Larson is part of that group, along with members of the Candian and United States national teams. They all plan to play some showcase games to try to stay ready for what they hope is a new league in the near future.
“It’s a weird time because I’m not with a team right now,” Larson said. “I’m staying in New York. I’m actually at Colgate to be able to train and skate with the coaches to stay in shape. It’s a lot of personal workouts and stuff right now. Which is different because the past four years I’ve had a team to push me and motivate me. Right now it’s kind of on me.”
It was on Bailey as one of four girls in the Rockford Park District program when she was rising the ranks. Now it’s on her and other top women’s hockey players to make sure there are no cracks in the ice when it comes to the future of the sport.