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Growing up, I always wanted to play in the NHL. At the time, there wasn't a professional league for women, but my dad always told me that there was a chance that, one day, it might happen. I always kept that in mind, and it motivated me in many ways.

As a young girl, I was also motivated by the female mentors in my life. One of those mentors is my mom, who constantly shows me how to be a successful woman in society. As I played on mostly male teams when I was younger, she always told me I could be just as good as the boys.

As I grew older, I became more familiar with female coaches. This was important, as they became great role models for me. Winny Brodt-Brown was one of my biggest role models. She was not only the first to win the Ms. Hockey Award in Minnesota, but she also went on to play in college, the World Championships and the Premier Hockey Federation with the Minnesota Whitecaps. She played a huge part in the success of women's hockey in Minnesota and the growth of the sport today. There are more women involved in coaching today than there have ever been. The same goes for sports broadcasting.

I also remember looking up to one of my favorite female hockey players, Maddie Rooney, especially because we shared the same path at Andover High School. She was and still is a big role model because she was someone who looked like me and went on to have success not only in high school, but in the Olympics. Back then, that used to be the pinnacle for female hockey players. Fast-forward to 2024, and Maddie is living out her dream in the Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL).

Recently, our state broke the world record for attendance at a professional women's hockey game when 13,316 people came to watch Minnesota play Montreal at the Xcel Energy Center. This was another great step for women's hockey. Since then, the record has been broken at a PWHL game in Toronto. But this movement is about more than breaking records — it's about breaking barriers. Now, girls everywhere can be fueled by the ambition to play in the PWHL. All these women are trailblazers, and will be remembered as legends in the history of hockey. Thank you to each of you for making history and paving the way.

To grow the sport, I think it is so important that young girls are able to envision themselves playing professional hockey. It used to be that the dream of playing professionally was "just for boys." Now, with more media coverage for the PWHL and the role of social media, we can as female athletes inspire the next generation by giving them female role models to look up to.

Remember in 2019 when Team USA's Kendall Coyne Schofield was the first woman to compete in an NHL Skills Competition event with a 14.346-second lap around the ice? How cool was that! It got a lot of attention for women's hockey, but it wasn't any sort of victory lap. It was the start of a movement — but we also have bigger goals.

This movement isn't about girls vs. boys. This women's sports movement will take all of us. As female hockey players, we look up to male players — my favorite is Kirill Kaprizov. But now, our new league will give young girls and college-aged athletes a road map to the professional ranks. The new league will also lead to equal opportunity for women to excel and, ideally, make a living playing the sport we love.

In order to pass the sport to the next generation, I invite parents to take their son or daughter to a game and share the sport of women's hockey. I encourage sponsors to support the PWHL, and all of us to continue to go to the games or watch online. By supporting the league, you will create opportunities for so many more female hockey players from across Minnesota and the country. As hockey players we would like to not have to decide on a different profession because we can't make enough money playing the sport we love. I dream of a day when female athletes don't have to decide on the future of their sports career because of the size of their paycheck.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to grow up in Minnesota and play at the University of St. Thomas. I am proud to live in the state of hockey, where there are so many future stars at the high school and college level. The game keeps getting better as girls are becoming more advanced in stickhandling and skating. I see it firsthand at the college level and in the next generation in high school. For example, future star Josie St. Martin from Stillwater was an assistant captain and the top goal scorer for Team USA, which recently won a gold medal at the U18 IIHF World Championships. There were also six other players on the team from Minnesota, a great representation of our state and the passion and talent for hockey we have developed as part of our culture.

We live in the state of hockey, so let's continue to lead the way, support women's hockey and shape the future for the next generation.

Ella Boerger was the recipient of the 2023 Ms. Hockey Award. The 2024 recipient will be named on Sunday.